In Twenty Ads That Shook the World: The Century's Most Groundbreaking Advertising and How It Changed Us All (Crown, $25), James B. Twitchell uses an art historian's approach to showcase his collection of the most memorable and persuasive pitches of all time. "[These ads] may not make you gulp, but they did change the way we swallowed information about the world around us," writes Twitchell.
From the legendary huckster P.T. Barnum to such campaigns as Revlon's revolutionary Charlie woman, The Marlboro Man, Absolut's plays on packaging and Michael Jordan's nearly synonymous relationship with Nike, Twitchell depicts advertising throughout the 20th century. He deftly leads the way behind the seeming simplicity of the ad toward understanding the more complex social and economic issues surrounding the product and its message within the context of its day.
Throughout the text, which is peppered with sociological factoids, Twitchell explains how each effort moved us closer to present-day advertising, for better or worse. His role varies from being an admiring chronicler of the craft to one of its more ardent critics. The result is a thoroughly enjoyable read that will have you humming more than a few jingles you thought you'd forgotten. You might even buy into the author's assertion, borrowed from and credited to adman Earnest Elmo Calkins, that advertising may have more value to historians than editorial content.