At about the same time that artists began designing industrial products, advertisers began incorporating prominent art forms into their newspaper and magazine commercials to add prestige to their products. Together, they educated the American public about good taste and, in turn, good (that is, profit-bearing) spending habits. According to Roland Marchand: "When an advertising art director sought to create an aura of style around a product that did not itself convey an adequate prestige image, he was likely to turn to high art for the desired association" (140). An early and popular style was that of oil paintings, as used in the advertisement for Johnson's baby powder. In addition to replicating known works of art, however, advertisers also adapted high-culture styles for their own purposes. A 1928 Maxwell House advertisement, for example, depicts a coffee-drinking party in impressionist style.

"What the product acquired from such illustrations," Marchand continues, "was not so much a particular style image as an imputed prestige from its proximity to a work of fine art" (140). Easily recognizable styles, such as impressionism, which carried the distinction of "high art," were pleasing and conveyed an equally pleasing feeling for the product, be it baby powder or pianos. "Because advertising aspired both to mirror and to guide the interests of consumers through the use of psychologically subtle and historically apposite images," Allen explains, "art became its natural ally. Like modern advertising…modernist art trafficked in unconventional and ingenious appeals to the senses, aiming to tap and to shape frustrations, aspirations, and tastes born of modern life" (7).

As the public gained familiarity with these forms, artists turned to simpler, more current schools, such as Art Deco, cubism, and functionalism. According to Marchand, modern techniques proved adaptable thanks to five characteristics. First, diagonal lines "created a sensation of motion" and captured readers' attention better than rectangular designs (144). Consider the differences between two ketchup advertisements. The 1928 ad relies on conventional art forms and resists too heavy a focus on the ketchup bottle itself. Just four years later, the same company rejects the portrait style image in favor of a product-centered layout. Here the viewer immediately focuses on the ketchup bottle and, as it is drawn diagonally, the eye follows the downward slope and sees an improvement in the food with the addition of the tomato paste.

Off-centered layouts created a similar effect. Additionally, "[a]s the reader's eye struggled to restore balance to the layout, the ad captured his attention long enough to impel him toward the selling message" (144). A 1934 Schaefer's beer ad, for example, positions a case of its product, in the top left portion of the advertising space. A single beer bottle in the center of the page would more quickly convey the product name, but such an ad, Marchand would argue, proves visually unstimulating and a reader is apt to turn the page with little attention. This novel approach, however, interests the reader longer, urging a longer look and inciting thought about the product.
Deliberate discontinuities, a third trait, appeared in the "dissonant juxtaposition of the montage, in the simultaneity and rejection of sequential logic in surrealism, in futurism's immediacy and lust for impact" (145). Such images, including one used in 1932 by Philco radios, shocked and excited the audience while bringing character to the product. The advertisement underscored the product's enhanced sound quality by depicting the radio as larger than the people crowded around it. Moreover, because the miniature people paled in comparison to the oversized appliance, the viewer immediately takes in the improved design. The surrealistic approach conveys an atmosphere of fun and curiosity while leaving a strong impression of Philco.
Expressive distortion allowed artists to play with color, shapes, sizes, and spatial relationships, which gave "an emotional dimension to commodities" (146). In one Penzoil commercial, artist strategically place bright yellow Penzoil signs in an otherwise sepia-toned image of a mechanic's shot. Only objects bearing the oil company's name appear in yellow with one disproportionately large sign in the foreground grabbing most of the viewer's attention. The blend of nostalgia and modernity evokes both a sense of old-fashioned service and modern-day technology.
Finally and somewhat paradoxically given the distortions and discontinuities already described, art directors appreciated modernism's simplicity, which applied to images and new sans-serif typefaces alike. "Simple" visuals meant a significant quality of the product could be enhanced while the supporting details could be purged. A Mercier champagne advertisement, for example, uses top-down perspective of the drink being poured into a glass. The straightforward shot, which lacks any additional decoration, forces the viewer to take in the elegance of the glass, the spirit of the bubbles, and the self-assured quality of the Mercier name.

The key here, however, is not just that advertisers appropriated tenets of modern art, but that consumers--especially women--were exposed to, almost assaulted by, these images on a daily basis. Magazines such as Fortune, Saturday Evening Post, Ladies' Home Journal, Better Homes and Gardens, Good Housekeeping, and Woman's Home Companion all printed the types of advertising Marchand describes. Also significant, most of these publications targeted women, stereotypically the likely shopper for her family, the spouse more prone to the sort of emotional response these ads sought to provoke, and the sex more apt to appreciate the beautiful. In an American Heritage article, Marchand notes:

No facet of the advertiser-audience relationship held such consequence for advertising content as the perception by the overwhelmingly male advertising elite that it was engaged primarily in talking to masses of women. Demographically, of course, women composed no more than a razor-thin majority of the nation's population, but contemporary statistics indicated that they--the family 'purchasing agents'--did about 80 to 85 percent of the nation's retail buying (79).

Product designers and advertising art directors may have turned the cultural and commercial worlds on their respective heads, but only by stirring the desires of the consumer could their revolution have succeeded. The process is as much about bringing the museum into the home as it is bringing the home into the museum. Calkins explains:

[As artists turn to advertising as legitimate work], and more important still, the manufacturer learns the secret of buying the best the artist has in him, the result becomes evident in the pages of magazines and newspapers, in books, printed matter, and--to a lesser degree--on the poster boards. If such work is good art, and it is well reproduced, as much of it now is, advertising becomes a humbling picture gallery for millions who never see the inside of an art museum (22).

With this two-way exchange of ideas, the designers, advertisers, and shoppers assemble into a team of sorts, and together encourage the manufacturers to produce more attractive machine-made goods, which in turn heightens the recognition of everyday housewares and other products as cultural artifacts. Thus by 1934, the Museum of Modern Art could successfully host Machine Arts and publish a catalog that doubled as exhibition guide and consumer order form, knowing patrons would fill their homes with Walter Darwin Teague bowls and glassware.

In 1927, Macy's initiated an alliance between art in trade, hoping to translate its name-recognition and selling power among the American public into product-design influence over the manufacturing world. The store brought pieces of high culture into its retail space and lined them next to more ordinary products such as furniture and jewelry. The idea being that if everyday goods looked as nice as these, more of them would sell. Just seven years later, the Museum of Modern Art inverted the process by showcasing machine-made objects, as well as the machines themselves, in a formal, if unconventional, exhibit. In the interim years, product designers and advertisers were waging a similar debate: advertisers first displayed their products next to art, but as the products became more aesthetically pleasing and the public more accustomed to the use of artistic principles in advertising, the product, itself, became the ad centerpiece. The association between art and trade fused, until the two institutions proved nearly indistinguishable. Thus, in 1975, Campbell's soup-can man Andy Warhol could proclaim, "good business is the best art."

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