A History of Advertising by Stéphane Pincas and Marc LoiseauTuesday 07 Oct 2008
An informative and glamorous retrospective into the seductive world of advertising.
Ignoring the self-explanatory title the authors have chosen to avoid all possible confusion about the content of this book and have plastered the front and back covers in two sumptuous, glossy ads good enough to kiss or eat..or both.
Lancôme may have dominated the cover but illuminating the glossy pages of this big, heavy coffee-table book are hundreds of examples illustrating the evolution of this former marketing subdivision.
Contrary to popular opinion the birth of advertising didn't begin in America but in France in the 1630's, when a Frenchman placed the first advertising notes in 'La Gazette de France'. Then again this book is penned by two French advertisers, Stéphane Pincas and Marc Loiseau, so they might say that! However they go on to say that the first time that the term 'advertising agency' was used dates back to 1842 in Philadelphia.
The book tells the history of advertising in sections divided by decades. It's all in there from 'Coke's' first 1892 campaign to the camel still used in the 'Camel' cigarette campaigns to the original 'Green Giant'. There is even artwork explaining the creation of the first Soap Opera, which began as a picture story ad to sell washing powder.
The debate over what constitutes art has been going on much longer than the history of advertising and no doubt will continue for centuries more to come. However glancing through this book, it is easier to side with the advertising loving art lovers who classify this body of work as Art. At some stage many of the great artists have contributed to various campaigns and their work is included here, from the obvious, such as Warhol to the less so, including Picasso and Magritte.
The artwork is complete with anecdotes and cultural references which place the historical campaigns in context. The only annoying little detail, or lack thereof, is the accompanying descriptions for the numerous images, which are too small and too confusing. The highlight is of course the numerous images, which tell as much about the culture, history, sexism and racism of the times as it does about the various products.
French advertising great Maurice Lévy said in his forward: "We are all moved by the desire to reach out for what we don't have. We never get it of course. But trying makes the world go around". Lévy looks every inch the ad man, a modern yet older Don Draper and he echoes the 'Mad Men's' words that advertising is: "based on one thing…happiness…People want to be told so badly what to do that they'll believe anything."
Given the popularity of 'Mad Men' this is the perfect buy for fans of the TV series, of media or art fans in general. An added bonus and stocking filler idea for Taschen's next Christmas wish-list is an Irish version - it has been over twenty years since Hugh Oram's 'The History of Advertising in Ireland'.