Advertising is paid communication through a non-personal medium in which the sponsor is identified and the message is controlled.


Listed in chronological order.
  • Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.
    • Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, 1889, Ch. 22

  • You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements.
    • Norman Douglas, South Wind, 1917

  • Living in age of advertisement, we are perpetually disillusioned. The perfect life is spread before us every day, but it changes and withers at a touch.
    • J. B. Priestley, "The Disillusioned", 1929; in The Balconinny, and Other Essays, 1969, p. 30.

  • It is never silent, it drowns out all other voices, and it suffers no rebuke, for is it not the voice of America? [...]
    It has taught us how to live, what to be afraid of, how to be beautiful, how to be loved, how to be envied, how to be successful. [...]
    Is it any wonder that the American population tends increasingly to speak, think, feel in terms of this jabberwocky? That the stimuli of art, science, religion are progressively expelled to the periphery of American life to become marginal values, cultivated by marginal people on marginal time?
    • James Rorty, Our Master's Voice: Advertising (New York: John Day, 1934); pages 32-33, 70-72, 270.

  • The Federal Radio Commission has interpreted the concept of public interest so as to favor in actual practice one particular group ... the commercial broadcasters.
    • E. Pendleton Herring, "Politics and Radio Regulation", Harvard Business Review, January 1935

  • "Papa, what is the moon supposed to advertise?"
    • Carl Sandburg, The People, Yes, 1936

  • They deny good luck, love, power, romance, and inspiration
    From La Jac Brite ointment and incense of all kinds,
    And condemn in writing skin brightening and whitening
    and whitening of minds.

    There is upon the federal trade commission a burden of glory
    So to defend the fact, so to impel
    The plucking of hope from the hand, honor from the complexion,
    Sprite from the spell.
    • Josephine Miles, "Government Injunction Restraining Harlem Cosmetic Co." (1941) St. 2–3; Collected Poems, University of Illinois Press, 1983

  • The modern Little Red Riding Hood, reared on singing commercials, has no objection to being eaten by the wolf.
    • Marshall McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride, 1951

  • Advertising is the whip which hustles humanity up the road to the Better Mousetrap. It is the vision which reproaches man for the paucity of his desires.
    • E.S Turner, The Shocking History of Advertising, 1952

  • An advertising agency is 85% confusion and 15% commission.
    • Fred Allen, Treadmill to Oblivion, 1954

  • From any cross-section of ads, the general advertiser's attitude would seem to be: if you are a lousy, smelly, idle, underpriveleged and oversexed status-seeking neurotic moron, give me your money.
    • Kenneth Bromfield in Advertiser's Weekly, 1962

  • Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the trouble is I don't know which half.
    • John Wanamaker, In Ogilvy Confessions of an Advertising Man, 1963

  • It is sometimes argued that advertising really does little harm because no one believes it any more anyway. We consider this view to be erroneous. The greatest damage done by advertising is precisely that it incessantly demonstrates the prostitution of men and women who lend their intellects, their voices, their artistic skills to purposes in which they themselves do not believe, and that it teaches [in the words of Leo Marx] ‘the essential meaninglessness of all creations of the mind: words, images, and ideas.’ The real danger from advertising is that it helps to shatter and ultimately destroy our most precious non-material possessions: the confidence in the existence of meaningful purposes of human activity and respect for the integrity of man.
    • Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy, 1964
    • quoted by Robert W. McChesney & John Bellamy Foster in "The Commercial Tidal Wave" in Monthly Review (3/2003)

  • The sponsor may be viewed as a potentate with a strong influence over currents of thought in our society, exercised mainly through television [...] It has tended to displace or overwhelm other influences such as newspapers, school, church, grandpa, grandma. It has become the definer and transmitter of society's values.
    • Erik Barnouw, The Sponsor: Notes On a Modern Potentate (Oxford University Press, 1978), page 74-75, ISBN 0-19-502614-4

  • Advertising reaches out to touch the fantasy part of people's lives. And you know, most people's fantasies are pretty sad.
    • Frederik Pohl, The Way The Future Was, 1978

  • Society drives people crazy with lust and calls it advertising.
    • John Lahr, The Guardian 1989


  • Advertising may be described as the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it.
    • Three Score and Ten by Stephen Leacock

  • Ads are the cave art of the twentieth century.
    • Marshall McLuhan

  • Advertising is the greatest art form of the 20th century.
    • Marshall McLuhan

  • All advertising advertises advertising.
    • Marshall McLuhan

  • I honestly believe that advertising is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.
    • Jerry Della Femina

  • In the Popular Media world of today over eating is dangerous, under eating is self-destructing and those who do neither simply complain that we see too much of both.
    • Daniel Siddins

  • Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket.
    • George Orwell

  • Advertising is the modern substitute for argument; its function is to make the worse appear the better.
    • George Santayana

  • Advertising is a valuable economic factor because it is the cheapest way of selling goods, particularly if the goods are worthless.
    • Sinclair Lewis

  • Advertising is legalized lying.
    • H.G. Wells
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