When television began in the late 1940s, advertising was already a vital part of the picture. The medium’s first big star, Milton Berle, appeared on “The Texaco Star Theater,” Frank Sinatra hosted “Bulova Watch Time,” and “The Dinah Shore Chevy Show” and “The Bell Telephone Hour” drew large weekly audiences.
Throughout the 1950s, advertisers were fully in charge, controlling the content of a large part of prime time, and selling their products through live demonstrations, celebrity testimonials, inventive animation, and ads that were integrated into the program. With the shift away from full sponsorships to 30-second spots from a variety of companies in the 1960s, a new era of creativity emerged, as advertisers embraced new techniques and approaches to reach new generations of consumers.
Brian Rose, a professor emeritus at Fordham University, examines how advertising evolved during television’s first two decades and the important role it played in convincing viewers that the key to happiness quite literally lay in buying their way into the American dream.
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