Soap, Sex and Cigarettes- A Book Review

Soap, Sex and Cigarette is a book about the impact of society, business and technological advances on the evolution of American Advertising. It explains how modern advertising could not have developed without the printing press or other form of media and communication as well as how the industrial revolution, the world wars and the great depression were all essential events in shaping the current advertising spectrum.

More than just a chronological account of events that led to the advertising that we see today, the book explains the involvement of the consumer in shaping the current marketing practices. It explains how changes in the economy, emerging technologies and the consumer research and analysis of what is appropriate for all has shaped the way consumer products are manufactured, packaged, marketed and advertised. The book also gives a brief overview of the evolution process of the modern American full-service advertising agency.

The target audience for this book is not only a person interested in the evolution of the advertising industry but also someone trying to foresee the future of digital advertising that is currently evolving. Understanding the reasons and the events that led to the way advertising is done today can help a reader understand deeply why advertising is moving online and even to possibly predict the near future of this industry. From this perspective, the subject matter is interesting, carefully selected and well coordinated with illustrations that are quite pertinent.

In terms of content, the book is divided into four major evolution modules, indicating the impact each had on advertising practices in American society due to social, cultural and technological advances in that era, enabling a new and more targeted way for advertisers to reach consumers.

Early American Advertising (1880-1920):

The book lays a great foundation of how the advertising modules grew. For example, the industrial revolution led to a culture of mass consumption leading to the development of consumer goods like ready made clothes, canned foods, sporting events, recreational reading centers and theatres. This required a more targeted advertising. It led to the creation of targeting consumer by market segment, defining target markets, which eventually gave rise to mass media advertising.

Modern American Advertising (1920s- 1960s):

Sivulka gives a detailed account of the impact of wars, atomic age, the evolution of new communication mediums and its impact of society.
It all started with the impact of the 1920s machine driven culture. As consumer electronics started becoming affordable, and owning these items became a status symbol, advertising became inspired with fashion, colorful logos and stylish poster depictions to attract consumers. Mass media allowed defining entirely new markets which were previously unreachable for marketers. Television, Radio, magazines and the tabloid newspaper advertising led to the creation of the slogan line, selling on appeal and advertising design. These new range of services led to advertising agencies expanding their services, thus were created the present agencies like Leo Burnett, DBB, Ogilvy and the like. The book is able to tie the cultural impact of the wars, the great depression and the atomic age in the development of this business.

Contemporary American Advertising (1960-2000):

“The spread of new social values began to transform the workplace, creating new demands for equal rights in hiring and promotion.” In this part, the book ties the impact of multiculturalism, feminism and environmentalism to American Advertising, explaining the impact of culture change, leading to high creative demands which resulted in large acquisitions and creation of the “Mega Agencies” like McCann-Erickson, BBDO, Ogilvy, Grey Advertising and the rest. The technological advances like the computer generated graphics in television commercials, aided the popularity of television advertising. The ability for marketers to capture large audience led to creation of marketing niches based on class, gender, race and age. Thus came the era of genre targeted advertising. Product differentiation, market segmentation, comparative advertising, all were stepping-stones to the evolution of the information era- the era of the Internet.

New Media Advertising/Digital Advertising (2000 Onwards):

In this part, the book talks about the problems that advertising faces in the Internet age, where communication channels are mainly email, texting, you-tube, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. From the requirement of multicultural targeting to user-generated content, the book explains the dilemmas that marketers/advertisers face in this age. It also flashes some light on the new interactive advertising strategies that have now emerged like mobile applications and interactive television. Finally, the last chapter explains the growth of agencies and their memorable digital campaigns like that of the Apple IPod, Nike Burger King and others, which have paved the way for digital advertising campaigns of tomorrow.

Each of these sections clearly outline, the events that led to the changes in American advertising and the resulting effect on consumers. The book is however subtitled “A Cultural History of American Advertising” and here is where it falls short. Being an excellent resource for understanding history of advertising, it is not able to communicate how advertising influenced society. In short excerpts, it demonstrates the stereotype of people of color and women being influenced by advertising, however this demonstration is not nearly as well explained as would be expected from a book with this title.

At last, “Soap, Sex and Cigarettes” is definitely exhaustively researched and very well written. I would recommend it as a great resource for both the professional marketer/advertiser and the casually interested.

Book Reference:

Sivulka J. (2011) Soap, Sex, and Cigarettes: A Cultural History of American Advertising, Boston MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

1 Comment

Filed under COM546

Uses and Gratification: Understanding the Motivations to Use Mobile TV

Choi Y.K., Kim J., McMillan S. (2009) Motivators for the Intention to Use Mobile TV: A Comparison of South Korean Males and Females. International Journal of Advertising, 28(1), pp. 147–167

This paper talks about the intention of use of Mobile TV among undergraduate male and female students in South Korea. This research is primarily conducted to predict advertising patterns for Mobile TV worldwide as this technology gets adopted and since South Korean students are early adopter, they are used as a case study for this research. The paper indicates that they key moderating variable in consumers behavior in this case is the Consumer Gender.

I looked at this research’s findings from the lens of Uses and Gratifications theory as well as Christiansen’s theory of Innovation with respect of disruptive technologies.

Uses and Gratifications Theory:

The uses and gratifications theory states that the audience attempts to fulfill certain psychological needs in media choice and these gratifications sought motivates the use of media. (Lichtestien & Rosenfeld, 1984) These choices are made because the user believes that the media used will satisfy his needs.

Thus for the use of mobile TV the motivations antecedents found were:

  1. Entertainment: Men were found to use mobile TV for hobbies and entertainment and women were seen to enjoy chatting and exchanging information with friends.
  2. Social Interaction: Females were seen to be more motivated than men to watch television for ‘pasting time’ or ‘companionship’. Girls preferred to email and chat with friends, thus proving a vast difference in social interaction between males and females.
  3. Permanent Access: Since females were seen to use mobile phone more frequently for various purposes, they valued permanent access of a mobile phone more than males.
  4. Pass Time: Media use as a pastime in mobile phone has been previously established. This use has been linked to playing video games or watchable media. However, there was no significant gender difference in usage with respect to passing time.
  5. Fashion/Status: Men tend to be more excited about owning the device and perceive the ownership of a mobile device as a status symbol while females were more interested in the generic calling function of the device.

Thus, the high adoption of mobile TV among Korean students can be linked directly to a gratification based on the five uses stated above.

Christiansen’s theory of Innovation: Disruptive Innovation

Christiansen, in his book Seeing What’s Next, describes ‘New Market Disruptive Innovation’ as products or services that help people do more conveniently what they are already trying to do. Mobile TV being a disruptive innovation is seen to be enabling undergraduate students to fulfill their needs like communication and entertainment on the move and the ability to have permanent access to both.

The study finally indicates that advertisements should be targeted based on gender as females use the web for interpersonal communication and males for entertainment. The reason for this preference has been explained as two fold. First, previous research has indicated that males perceive technology more positively than their counterpart, who has been observed to be far more anxious in adopting technology changes. The second is the nature of the medium itself. Since females are seen to be more network oriented in communications male communication pattern are based on the notion of social hierarchy, usage intentions differ. Another large reason for adoption of mobile TV has been need to express themselves as fashion/status for both men and women.

Thus, for advertisement purposes the study indicates the use of Uses and Gratification theory to target females by accentuating the value of intimacy and support from family and target males on the concept of independence, fun lifestyle and social status for selling Mobile TV.


Choi Y.K., Kim J., McMillan S. (2009) Motivators for the Intention to Use Mobile TV: A Comparison of South Korean Males and Females. International Journal of Advertising, 28(1), pp. 147–167

Christensen, C. M., Anthony, S. D. and Roth, E.A. (2004). Seeing what’s next. (pp. 3-27). Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press

Ruggiero T. (2000) Uses and Gratification Theory In the 21st Century. Mass Communication and Society, 3(1), 3-37

Hanjun K. (2005) Internet Uses and Gratifications: A Structural Equation Model of Interactive Advertising. Journal of Advertising Research, 32 (5), pp. 30-42.


Filed under COM546

Term Project Thesis Statement: Evolution of Online Display Advertising

Title: Evolution of Online Display Advertising: From Text Ads to Behavioral Targeting

Thesis Statement:

The evolution of online display advertising started a revolution in the marketing industry. The offline channels of display advertising were expensive and had the ability to target only a small segment of consumers at a time without the ability to focus on a specific target market. Online display advertising was able to drastically moderate all of these characteristics. With exponential growth in the amount of time spent online, it was possible to target the right consumer at a very low price. However, online advertising is still a growing ecosystem. With over a hundred different companies embedded between the advertiser and the publisher, this industry is still to reach its full market potential. Thus for the purpose of this project, I aim to focus on the question: What can advertisers take away from the evolution of online display advertising that can help them place advertisements in a more effective manner?

Statement of Intent:

Online display advertising is still evolving ecosystem and therefore we can learn a lot from the initial models of online advertising that can help us pave the path for the future.

Past: Text based online advertising – JPG or PNG static image

Present: Untargeted Flash enabled display ads that worked on the cost-per-million impression model

Future: Targeted Rich Media banner ads that work on a cost-per-click model. Targeting types include Behavioral Targeting, Social Targeting, Demographic targeting and Geographic targeting.

Working Source List

Evans, David S. (2009). The Online Advertising Industry: Economics, Evolution, and Privacy. Journal of Economic Perspectives; Summer2009, Vol. 23 Issue 3, p37-60, 24p, 2 Diagrams, 2 Charts, 1 Graph. Retrieved from, University of Washington Library.

This paper explains the expansion of Internet-based advertising is transforming the advertising business by providing more efficient methods of matching advertisers and consumers and transforming the media business by providing a source of revenue for online media firms that competes with traditional media firms. It focuses on how the decline of the newspaper industry symbolizes the relationship between online content and display advertising.

Hollis, Nigel. (2005). Ten Years of Learning on How Online Advertising Builds Brands. Journal of Advertising Research 45(2), 255-268. Retrieved from

This article explains in depth the birth and the boom of online display advertising. It outlines the spending on display ads through the years and how the advertising ecosystem has evolved online to fit into the sales cycle. Finally, it explains the metrics used in measuring brand strength as seen from the spending in display ads.

1 Comment

Filed under COM546

Reading Reflection I :Understanding the evolution of any business’ ecosystem

Google started as only a search engine. It is now the biggest Internet Company in the world. Almost every internet technology existent today has more often that not, a very successful Google counterpart, from email system to advertising and social networking to a Brower, Google offers the best. Coincidence? It is unlikely.

Christiansen offers a three-step method to approach innovation for existing companies (incumbents) like Google as well as new startups (disruptive innovators). It starts with understanding your present consumers and their needs. Christiansen argues that the biggest signal of an impending requirement of change is a dissatisfied consumer or a large non-consumer. Before Google launched Google Analytics, most reporting on website traffic and online trends was done by running large complicated SQL queries by data analysts who had to be highly trained and thus were expensive. This of course was an unsatisfactory process. Google’s introduction of Google analytics made it easy to do a complicated task at a much less cost. Therefore, the product was easily adopted and widely used. Various other companies then launched platforms that were similar to what Google’s product did but since Google kept reinventing the product and adding features, it has been able to retain a large segment of its initial users or non-consumers. Therefore, it is necessary for any innovator or an incumbent to ask these most important questions, when they launching a new product or thinking of adding to the existing one.

• How does this product or service serve the market?
• How does it integrate into the current industry ecosystem? What will be the integration process be like? Are their rules that are required for smooth integration?
• What other external factors will affect the business?

The second step for innovation is to see how the incumbents react to disruptive innovation. In most cases they will do one of the three things- flee, ignore or fight to retain customers. When Google entered the Internet search business, AOL was a preexisting player in this segment. It chose to ignore Google’s superior search system and thus allowed creation of a sustaining-up market innovation, which eventually overtook AOL’s market share. Thus AOL chose not to retain its customers and decided to “flee” and give up its share to Google. In most cases, to understand and estimate the incumbent’s reaction, it is necessary to have an understanding of the competitor’s strength and weaknesses and thus to succeed, it is necessary to be able to do what the competitor cannot do or will not do. To do so, it is essential to identify incumbent’s resources and processes while keeping in mind that incumbents have access to the best technologies and they have the ability to buy smaller companies (disruptive innovators) to reduce competition to their product. They may not use the technology provided by the innovators until it really integrates well into their profit making system.

The final step in Christiansen’s theory is to make strategic choices to best position yourself in the industry. These choices alter the natural course of evolution of a company. Christiansen advises on three important choices when making decisions about innovation. They are strategy, hiring and sourcing investment capital.

This theory indicates that understanding of the current ecosystem and competitor positioning will provide the most efficient data to calculate the strategic positioning and entry point required to conquer the market. Thus the important questions that need to be asked when making business innovation choices are

• Is there dissatisfaction with the existing product? Is the consumer ready for change?
• What are the competitors doing about the consumer dissatisfaction?
• What strategic choices would be necessary to introduce this product in the existing market? Will it be profitable?

1 Comment

Filed under COM546

Com546 Term Project Idea

Industry- Advertising
Technology- Online Display Advertising
Issue- Evolution of Fraud in Online Display Advertising

My term project idea revolves around the advertising industry, where I would like to track the evolution of frauds in different forms of advertising media, eventually concentrating on display advertising. Although display advertising is still evolving, it constitutes over half of the revenue earned through digital media channels.
I think it would be interesting to track the various types of fraud that existed in the placement of traditional display media like newspapers,magazines, banner ads etc. and the ones that are currently known in the online display ads industry. The various trends that can then be mapped across these kinds of frauds could include the investment required, the gains – monetary or otherwise, how long did they last before they were caught and finally the impact that they had on the entire industry.
Finally, the goal of the project would be to look at the online display advertising from the lens of the already known traditional media frauds and from these insights, predict the changes that the display advertisement could undergo and the impact these frauds could have on the digital advertising ecosystem.

1 Comment

Filed under COM546

Com546 Course Learning Objective

Advertising has been one of the main source of income for any form of media. Therefore, I think it would be interesting to see the effect of evolution of media on it and how buying patterns for media as a source of advertisement and marketing changed over time.
As media evolved and there were multiple channels to advertise, did the amount spend on advertising increase, or was it just taken out of one source and put into the other? If the money spent increased, what was the reason for it – more exposure or the fragmented audience? If it did not, then why not?
Another phenomena that I would like to explore is how quickly or slowly the audience adopted the new form of media after it was introduced to it. Did it then discard the old media after the adoption was completed?
I think I would then like to, based on these evolution trends explore the current and future mindset of individuals towards digital media and what would be the best way to invest in this form of media in terms of advertisement.

1 Comment

Filed under COM546

Sample Page

This is a sample wordpress blog.

Leave a comment

Filed under Random