Raymond Williams in his article "Advertising: the magic system" explains the development of the advertising industry in America and the nature of the message that industry has been creating over the years. He begins by noting the issues facing the historian of advertising:
To trace the development from processes of specific attention and information to an institutionalized system of commercial information and persuasion; to relate this to changes in society and in the economy; and to trace changes in method in the context of changing organizations and intentions (Williams 321).
Advertising involves the spreading of information, and this process began with word-of-mouth, the dissemination of handwritten and printed broadsheets, and similar means of reaching the public. With the development of new technologies and new means of communication, these as well were enlisted in the service of advertising. Williams traces the formation of modern advertising to certain characteristics of the new "monopoly" capitalism in the last century:
Modern advertising. . . belongs to the system of market-control which, at its full development, includes the growth of tariffs and privileged areas, cartel-quotas, trade campaigns, price-fixing by manufacturers, and that form of economic imperialism which assured certain markets overseas by political control of their territories (Williams 326).
Williams says that advertising has developed from a simple dissemination of information to a major part of capitalist business organization. Advertising is also more and more a source of finance for a whole range of general communication. Advertising has gone beyond the role of selling goods and services to try to teach social and personal values. It has become a major political tool. Advertising in many ways defines our society and has become a background to daily activities:
It is often said that our society is too materialist, and that advertis...