By Gémina Gil Flores
School of Propaganda Art 1.8
Yesterday was the centenary of the World War I Armistice and this made me wonder what did advertising look like in 1918, or rather throughout the war. Indeed, when we think about the history of advertising, rare are those who see farther than the sixties, the glorious years, when consumer society was born in the United States. Spared by the war, this territory was ideal for disruptions and novelty. It was a great time for advertising: everything was new, bigger, faster, cheaper and more efficient. Marketing, strategy and segmentation theories have come to bring more meaning to communications and new technologies like television helped the message to spread faster.
But advertising already existed well before that. When Toulouse-Lautrec crafted Moulin Rouge, La Goulue in 1892, thereby achieving one of the first posters, it was meant to attract more people to the Parisian cabaret. Jules Chéret and him was spreading their work all over Paris and probably are the pioneers of the poster in Europe. They where followed by the Italian Leonetto Capiello and the most famous of all, Alfons Mucha, spearhead of the Art Nouveau movement.
Through our contemporary look, we must admit that these commercials were not very effective, probably because the rules of graphic design were not yet established so composition, readability and typography were used clumsily. It was not until 1919, when Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus School, that design rules will be erected by the greatest like Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Moholy-Nagy or Marcel Breuer. Before that, some already had a more contemporary vision of communication like Lucian Bernhard and his use of the Sachplakat (a poster where there is only the product on it). His aesthetic was radically opposed to the Art Nouveau by abandoning all the flourishes to only keep the object, as he did for brands like Manoli, Opel, Bosch or Adler. His work is closer to what we know today but still poor in concept and suitlety.
During Word War I, advertising was used in a very different way:
For the very first time, mass media and propaganda played a significant role in keeping the people at home informed about what was occurring on the battlefields.This was also the first war in which the government systematically produced propaganda as a way to target the public and alter their opinion. Everything was controlled by the government, and the benefit of this use is questionable : was it an effective way of spreading important information about the war, or was it a way to indoctrinate the people and spread fear ?
Today I just want us to remember that we are free to think, to speak and to believe. We must be grateful to those who fought for our rights throughout history. We must change the world for them.