The March Toward War: The March of Time as Document and Propaganda
Introduction The Time Empire MOT as Document Marching into War Voice of Conscience Timeline/Index
The Time Empire
Time Marches—On Radio!
Time Marches—On Film!
Advertising the March
Life and Advertising Tie-ins
Theater Distribution
Citizen Kane and Other Imitators
  Life magazine cover

Life and Advertising Tie-ins

Although it toyed with advertising other companies' products (Wrigley's gum, notably), The March of Time was built primarily as a commercial for Time and later Life magazines. The radio show and the films never made money1, but they offered invaluable advertising and brand-recognition value.

Although the air day for the radio show varied from year to year, appearing as many as five times per week, 15 minutes each day, by the late 1930s, the show settled into Thursday nights in a 30-minute format. By airing on Thursday, the show could advertise for Life magazine, which was on newsstands on Friday beginning in 1936. As a result, story choice was particularly influenced by what the magazine published each week.

Case Study of March 24, 1938 broadcast and magazine
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Life cover
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Life Magazine
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Ad for Life story on soldiers fighting abroad
Life Magazine Life Magazine

 

  Selassie
Haile Selassie was Time's Man of the year in 1935.3
 

Life was not the sole benefactor of The March of Time radio show's advertising. The show frequently made pitches for Time magazine as well, and there's evidence that they may have influenced each other's content. For example, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie was a favorite on the radio show and was also picked as Time's Man of the Year in 1935.

Although the films did not advertise for other companies or Time, Inc., it was heavily marketed to theatre owners and even school children, as they were given the publication Photo Reporter2, a current events promotional magazine that March of Time marketers promised would bring in more schoolchildren (See Theater Distribution). The films did help build The March of Time and Time brand names in the public's mind.

The March of Time radio show received coverage in radio magazines, but little mention in newspapers other than in the radio schedule (Washington Post | NYT schedule). The film, however, was advertised widely and received news coverage when controversial issues came out. Although the radio show may have been more shocking in its re-enactments, the mainstream press paid more attention to the films, probably because it had a broader audience and because the film, with their more serious tone and the detail and attraction of factual visuals, were thought to have a greater impact. See Influence on Public Opinion

Here's a typical script used to advertise both Time and The March of Time on screen, in a March 29, 1935 segment:

"On a thousand fronts, the history of the world moves swiftly forward. A thousand new facts, new details in the world's history come into being every hour. There is one complete record of this swift-changing civilization. [VOT:] It is Time, the weekly newsmagazine[/]. Time makes it possible for the busy man to read the story of his lifetime as he lives the story of his life. Discover Time. It's on every newsstand the new issue is out today—it's the magazine with the red border. [VOT] And now, The March of Time on the screen. The second issue is now showing on a thousand U.S. theaters. If you do not see it, watch your newspapers for your local announcement. You will find The March of Time a new experience in the motion picture theater, presenting in word and picture the whole story, the hidden beginnings, the play-by-play developments, the dramatic climaxes of the world's news events."

1 Fielding, Raymond. The March of Time, 1935-1951. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978. 19, 208.

2 Fielding, 126.

3 Time.com. July 26, 2004. <http://www.time.com/time/personoftheyear/archive/covers/1935.html>