Twenty Ads that Shook the World: The Century's Most Groundbreaking Advertising and How it Changed Us All, by James B. Twitchell (Three Rivers Press, 229 pages, $14).
It begins with a poster for "P.T. Barnum's Own and Only Greatest Show on Earth" (mid-1800s), moves on to a newspaper advertisement for Lydia Pinkham's Vegetable Compound (1880s) and ends with "Michael Jordan: The Hero as Product." In all, Twitchell explores 20 advertisements or advertising campaigns that he convincingly argues became defining parts of U.S. common culture. He's not all that enamored of the idea: "It's sad to say," he says, "that more of us know Morris the cat than William Morris, and more about Mr. Whipple and Mr. Clean than about Mr. Kurtz and Mrs. Dalloway." But this book is respectful of the techniques, major participants and processes involved in what Twitchell chooses as the most influential 20 ad campaigns in U.S. history. It's also clearly and often entertainingly written. A book that should be a must for anyone in the advertising world, and a delight for readers simply interested in language concepts and their influence.