Advertising is paid communication through a non-personal medium in which the sponsor is identified and the message is controlled. For a list of phrases used in the promotion of actual products, see Advertising slogans.
- Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author
A - F
- “But your sign says you can conjure up ever-filled purses,” Holger began.
“Advertising,” Martinus admitted. “Corroborative detail intended to lend artistic verisimilitude.”
People are taking the piss out of you every day. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you.
You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.
Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.
You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.
- It is sometimes argued that advertising really does little harm because no one believes it any more anyway. We consider this view to be erroneous. The greatest damage done by advertising is precisely that it incessantly demonstrates the prostitution of men and women who lend their intellects, their voices, their artistic skills to purposes in which they themselves do not believe, and that it teaches [in the words of Leo Marx] ‘the essential meaninglessness of all creations of the mind: words, images, and ideas.’ The real danger from advertising is that it helps to shatter and ultimately destroy our most precious non-material possessions: the confidence in the existence of meaningful purposes of human activity and respect for the integrity of man.
- Advertise your business. Do not hide your light under a bushel.
- P. T. Barnum. ‘Sundry Business Enterprises’, Ch XIV, ‘Barnum’s Rules for Success in Business’, The Life of P. T. Barnum, 1855.
- The sponsor may be viewed as a potentate with a strong influence over currents of thought in our society, exercised mainly through television [...] It has tended to displace or overwhelm other influences such as newspapers, school, church, grandpa, grandma. It has become the definer and transmitter of society's values.
- There are a lot of great technicians in advertising. And unfortunately they talk the best game. They know all the rules. They can tell you that people in an ad will get you greater readership. They can tell you that a sentence should be this short or that long. They can tell you that body copy should be broken up for easier reading. They can give you fact after fact after fact. They are the scientists of advertising. But there's one little rub. Advertising is fundamentally persuasion and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art.
- William Bernbach, Letter (5/15/47) as quoted in Shaun Usher, Letters of Note: Volume 2: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience (2016), p.190
- From any cross-section of ads, the general advertiser's attitude would seem to be: if you are a lousy, smelly, idle, underprivileged and oversexed status-seeking neurotic moron, give me your money.
- Advertising sells you things you don't need and can't afford, that are overpriced and don't work. And they do it by exploiting your fears and insecurities, and if you don't have any they'll be glad to give you a few by showing you a nice picture of a woman with big tits. That's the essence of advertising: big tits. Threateningly big tits.
- George Carlin (1997), "40 Years of Comedy".
- It seems like the better it gets, the more miserable people become. There’s never a technological advancement where people think, “Wow, we can finally do this!” … And I think a lot of it has to do with advertising. Americans have it constantly drilled into our heads, every fucking day, that we deserve everything to be perfect all the time.
- I honestly believe that advertising is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.
G - L
- Free speech is meaningless if the commercial cacophony has risen to the point where no one can hear you.
- Advertising may be described as the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it.
- She’s the quintessence of the horror behind the bright billboard. She’s the smile that tricks you into throwing away your money and your life. She’s the eyes that lead you on and on, and then show you death. She’s the creature you give everything for and never really get. She’s the being that takes everything you’ve got and gives nothing in return. When you yearn towards her face on the billboards, remember that. She’s the lure. She’s the bait. She’s the Girl.
- Fritz Leiber, The Girl with the Hungry Eyes (1949) in the collection Night’s Black Agents
- Advertising is a valuable economic factor because it is the cheapest way of selling goods, particularly if the goods are worthless.
M - R
- It is impossible to understand the American public without taking into account the tremendous psychological effect of bringing up a generation of people in a daily environment of advertising. It is impossible to escape the advertising man; his sales talk assaults us in the morning newspaper, in the street car, with billboards along the highways, and in his shameless use of the radio. This means that from morning till night, in the midst of our work as in our recreation, we live constantly in an atmosphere of intellectual shoddiness. Every popular prejudice and vulgar conceit is played upon and pandered to in the interests of salesmanship. Everywhere material interests and herd opinion are strengthened to the loss of personal independence. The tendency is to think and speak for effect rather than out of one's inner life. There is a marked decline the ability to play with ideas, or to live the spiritual life for its own sake. Hence a decline in civilization of interest, humor and urbanity. Advertising tends to make mechanized barbarians of us all.
- Everett Dean Martin, The Conflict of the Individual and the Mass in the Modern World (1932), pp. 29-30
- The modern Little Red Riding Hood, reared on singing commercials, has no objection to being eaten by the wolf.
- Ads are the cave art of the twentieth century.
- Marshall McLuhan quoted by Douglas Coupland, Extraordinary Canadians: Marshall McLuhan (aka: Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work! (2010), p. 113) and also in W. Terence Gordon McLuhan: A Guide for the Perplexed, p. 78, thus: "In Culture Is Our Business McLuhan identifies advertising as the cave art of the twentieth century…". This idea is most closely express by McLuhan in Culture Is Our Business (1970) thus: "The cave art of Madison Avenue has been by far the most innovative and educative art form of the twentieth century." (p. 48)
They deny good luck, love, power, romance, and inspiration
From La Jac Brite ointment and incense of all kinds,
And condemn in writing skin brightening and whitening
and whitening of minds.
There is upon the federal trade commission a burden of glory
So to defend the fact, so to impel
The plucking of hope from the hand, honor from the complexion,
Sprite from the spell.
- Josephine Miles, "Government Injunction Restraining Harlem Cosmetic Co." (1941) St. 2–3; Collected Poems, University of Illinois Press, 1983
- The rich philistinism emanating from advertisements is due not to their exaggerating (or inventing) the glory of this or that serviceable article but to suggesting that the acme of human happiness is purchasable and that its purchase somehow ennobles the purchaser.
- Vladimir Nabokov, “Philistines and Philistinism,” Lectures on Russian Literature.
- Are you sensitive? Are you easily hurt? Do you take adverse criticism to heart? Do you sometimes feel that life is passing you by? That the other man gets more out of life than you do? You do? Good. Well, keep it up. That's why we in advertising make so much money... LEGAL. DECENT. HONEST. TRUTHFUL... Are you those things too? Oh goody, better and better! Yum, yum, yum.
- Not the Nine O'clock News, "NOT! Magazine", 1980.
- By saturating the public domain with false sincerity, advertising makes genuine sincerity more difficult
- Avner Offer, The Challenge of Affluence (2006), p. 359.
- Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need.
- Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club (1996)
- Advertising reaches out to touch the fantasy part of people's lives. And you know, most people's fantasies are pretty sad.
- Living in age of advertisement, we are perpetually disillusioned. The perfect life is spread before us every day, but it changes and withers at a touch.
- It is never silent, it drowns out all other voices, and it suffers no rebuke, for is it not the voice of America? [...]
It has taught us how to live, what to be afraid of, how to be beautiful, how to be loved, how to be envied, how to be successful. [...]
Is it any wonder that the American population tends increasingly to speak, think, feel in terms of this jabberwocky? That the stimuli of art, science, religion are progressively expelled to the periphery of American life to become marginal values, cultivated by marginal people on marginal time?
- James Rorty, Our Master's Voice: Advertising (New York: John Day, 1934); pages 32-33, 70-72, 270.
- The Federal Radio Commission has interpreted the concept of public interest so as to favor in actual practice one particular group … the commercial broadcasters.
- Give them quality. That's the best kind of advertising in the world.
- Milton Hershey. Interview with Abe Heilman, 1953. Paul Wallace Research Collection, Accession 97004, Box 2, Folder 24; Hershey Community Archives, Hershey, PA, USA.
S - Z
- There are huge advertising budgets only when there's no difference between the products. If the products really were different, people would buy the one that's better. Advertising teaches people not to trust their judgment. Advertising teaches people to be stupid.
- Advertising has sometimes been depicted as simply another cost added on to the cost of producing goods and services. However, in so far as advertising causes more of the advertised product to be sold, economies of scale can reduce production costs, so that the same product may cost less when it is advertised, rather than more. Advertising itself of course has costs, both in the financial sense and in the sense of using resources. But it is an empirical question, rather than a foregone conclusion, whether the costs of advertising are greater or less than the reductions of production costs made possible by the economies of scale which it promotes. This can obviously vary from one firm or industry to another.
- Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics (2010), Ch. 6. The Role of Profits— and Losses
- Advertising is the whip which hustles humanity up the road to the Better Mousetrap. It is the vision which reproaches man for the paucity of his desires.
- Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.
- Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the trouble is I don't know which half.
- John Wanamaker. Quoted in David Ogilvy's Confessions of an Advertising Man, Ch. 3, 1963. [Wanamaker here paraphrasing the 1st Lord Leverhulme].
- Between a poem by Valéry and an advertisement for a beauty cream promising a rich marriage to anyone who used it there was at no point a breach of continuity. So as a result of literature’s spiritual usurpation a beauty cream advertisement possessed, in the eyes of little village girls, the authority that was formerly attached to the words of priests.
- Simone Weil, “Morality and literature,” On Science, Necessity, and the Love of God, R. Rees, trans. (1968), p. 164.