Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice

March 02, 2003|By Michael Pakenham

The Erotic History of Advertising, by Tom Reichart, Prometheus Books, 300 pages, $24 softbound.

Reichart, a professor of advertising at the University of Alabama and a long-time analyst of the use of sex imagery in marketing, has put together a treatise that will satisfy the standards of professionals -- academic or commercial. Had you any idea that overt sexual themes were used in marketing tobacco in the 1870s? Neither did I. And the historic record, traced here and relatively mildly illustrated, never stops from that early date onward. This is obligatory stuff for anybody in the business. But it is a delightfully provocative read for anyone who is the target of advertising -- anyone, today, who is not actually serving life tenure in a monastery.

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