History of advertising: No 100: Ads of the Great War

It almost beggars belief that something as horrific as the Great War should have helped shape modern advertising: powerful ads from companies building emotional bonds with consumers.

History of advertising: No 100: Ads of the Great War

The conflict also created an environment that allowed new products to evolve, market sectors to be created and the establishment of global brands, some of which thrive to this day.

At the turn of the 20th century, Britain was flooded with mass-produced, affordable consumer goods. The advertising and marketing historian David Clampin says it was the demand for these products that aided the rise of marketing and advertising that exploited emotion. So it was logical that such psychological techniques should ride the patriotic tide after war broke out.

Companies were helped by a huge surge in newspaper readership as people clamoured for information from the front – turning themselves into potential customers as they did so.

Commercial advertising at the time reflected the prevailing public mood by reinforcing government propaganda and demonising the enemy. A Gillette ad celebrated the "clean fighters" of the Allied forces "fighting for clean ideals". Another, for Greys cigarettes, underpinned the recruitment effort by presenting war as a romantic adventure and featuring the famous "stirrup charge" by the Scots Greys and Highlanders at St Quentin in 1914.

Clampin says: "An all-pervasive propaganda message could reach out to ordinary people and, at the same time, nurture a healthy profit for the companies concerned."


You have

[DAYS_LEFT] Days left

of your free trial

Subscribe now

Become a member of Campaign from just £51 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk ,plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now