Training the Reader’s Attention: Advertising Contests

Ellen Gruber Garvey

in The Adman in the Parlor

Published in print October 1996 | ISBN: 9780195108224
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199855070 | DOI:
Training the Reader’s Attention: Advertising Contests

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  • Literary Studies (19th Century)


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By the 1890s, as magazines became economically dependent on advertising rather than on sales of copies or subscriptions, magazine publishers, acting in the interests of advertisers, developed an institutional interest in focusing the attention of readers on advertising. This chapter looks at one strategy magazines pursued both to assure advertisers that their ads were being read and to demonstrate to readers that ads were entertaining, informative, and worth reading. Advertising contests encouraged readers to bring advertising materials into their lives, to incorporate brand names and advertising slogans into their conversation and writing, and to see the world through a new set of categories. Here, advertising figures became their companions, and advertising could be looked to as a reliable source of cheerful, friendly characters. The bright and lively sayings in advertisements were evidently not considered “slang” and therefore not condemned in the middle-class child's household or magazine, in a period in which the language of middle-class children was monitored for such lapses. Advertising therefore became an arena of play and pleasure.

Keywords: magazine advertising; readers; contests; middle class; brand names

Chapter.  12676 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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