“A Vast Enterprise in Salesmanship”
To convince a reluctant public to support American participation in World War I, the U.S. government created a Committee on Public Information. The committee was responsible for what its chair, George Creel, called “a vast enterprise in salesmanship.”
Among those the committee recruited to change American hearts and minds were more than 300 volunteer artists and copy writers from the advertising industry. Working within the Division of Pictorial Publicity, they created posters based on the same strategy they used for selling consumer goods—one that played on peoples’ emotions, then told them what to do.
Take a closer look
Note the similarities between posters promoting the war effort and ads for consumer goods; both use the same psychological strategy.
Posters were one of the most important tools the government used for persuading a variety of Americans, especially young white men and women, to support the war. The success of the wartime media blitz confirmed the power of the advertising industry.