When I first came to college, I was a Communications, Media, and Rhetoric major. I switched to English after taking (and heartily disliking) the intro class. Probably because most of it was spent memorizing and reciting the definition of rhetoric (short definition: the art of suasory symbol use. Long definition: I don’t remember). What I regret, though, is that I didn’t take at least one more CMR class, even if just for fun. There’s a lot to be learned from the way we communicate, whether it’s via TV, internet, or cell phone. Further, entire eras can be understood through a study of their advertisements.
Take the 1950s for example:
What initially strikes me about 1950s ads is that they’re all so silly. Really? Give a woman a vacuum for Christmas and she’ll be utterly happy. Put Coca-Cola in your infant’s bottle and he’ll surely grow up to be an investment banker. But the thing is, that’s the way things were sold; companies made a claim using the right combination of wit, relateability, and idealism. That’s the way things are still sold today, albeit perhaps more subtly.
We don’t say straight out that every woman should ask for cleaning supplies for Christmas, but we do say it nonetheless, well into the 21st century: