Interwar American advertising rose alongside new levels of hygiene, personal appearance, and technology in order to sell their products to target audiences. Despite the abundance of scholarship on media and gender, few studies have examined the gendered techniques through which interwar advertisers communicated with consumers in response to changing social norms and economic stability. The question this thesis explores is how these changes and communication shifted in response to consumer culture and how advertisers utilized early market research and persuasion techniques to target their audiences. Building on the studies of gender, consumption, and identity, this thesis examines the relationship between American advertisers and their targeted male and female consumers between 1920 and 1940. By exploring how admen and women within Madison Avenue's top advertising agencies utilized psychology and consumer feedback to develop a two-way communication with middle-classed consumers, this thesis draws from social, cultural, and gendered studies to understand how advertisers communicated with and tried to appeal to their target audiences. Utilizing both copy and imagery as sources of communication, this study examines every issue of the top circulating American magazines between 1920 and 1940 to explain how advertisers rose with early consumer behavioral psychology and new standards of sanitation and hygiene, how a growing consumer culture and American notion of identity and gender affected the selling of selfhood and personal beauty products, and how gendered media representations and persuasion techniques helped advertisers sell modernity and individuality to readers. This analysis surveys specific advertising campaigns before, during, and after the Stock Market Crash to follow shifts in appeals to masculinity and femininity in response to changing social norms. By delving into this intersection of gender, media, and identity, this study finds various nuances through which advertisers and their audiences communicated in and alongside a growing consumer culture.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Delgado, Natalie, "Rhetoric of Imagery: Gendering and Consumption Throughout Interwar American Advertisment" (2017). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 5650.