We Are What We Sell
How Advertising Shapes American Life. . . and Always Has
by Danielle Sarver Coombs and Bob Batchelor, Editors
January 2014, 1004pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
3 volumes, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-39244-3
$204, £157, 178€, A280
eBook Available: 978-0-313-39245-0
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Advertising fascinates Americans just as much as it aggravates them.

For the last 150 years, advertising has created a consumer culture in the United States, shaping every facet of American life—from what we eat and drink to the clothes we wear and the cars we drive.

In the United States, advertising has carved out an essential place in American culture, and advertising messages undoubtedly play a significant role in determining how people interpret the world around them. This three-volume set examines the myriad ways that advertising has influenced many aspects of 20th-century American society, such as popular culture, politics, and the economy. Advertising not only played a critical role in selling goods to an eager public, but it also served to establish the now world-renowned consumer culture of our country and fuel the notion of “the American dream.”

The collection spotlights the most important advertising campaigns, brands, and companies in American history, from the late 1800s to modern day. Each fact-driven essay provides insight and in-depth analysis that general readers will find fascinating as well as historical details and contextual nuance students and researchers will greatly appreciate. These volumes demonstrate why advertising is absolutely necessary, not only for companies behind the messaging, but also in defining what it means to be an American.


  • Includes original essays by noted cultural and advertising historians, commentators, and journalists
  • Provides analysis from experts in advertising and popular culture that places American advertising in historical and cultural context
  • Supplies a comprehensive examination of advertising history and its consequences across modern America
  • Presents an extensive analysis of the role of new media and the Internet
  • Documents why advertising is necessary, not only for companies, but in determining what being "an American" constitutes
Danielle Sarver Coombs, PhD, is assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State University. She has worked as a brand researcher and consultant for a number of top advertising agencies and brands, including Payless, Scripps Networks, Paramount Home Video, and the American Museum of Natural History. Since returning to academia, her research has focused on sports and branding. Coombs earned a doctorate in mass communication and public affairs from the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University.

Bob Batchelor, PhD, is assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State University and academic coordinator of its online master's program in public relations. He received his undergraduate degrees at the University of Pittsburgh, his master's degree at Kent State University, and his doctorate in English at the University of South Florida. Batchelor is the author or editor of 21 books, including 3 volumes in Greenwood's Popular Culture through History series: The 1900s, The 1980s, and The 2000s. In addition, he edited Greenwood's four-volume American Pop: Popular Culture Decade by Decade; Praeger's three-volume Cult Pop Culture: How the Fringe Became Mainstream; and Praeger's three-volume American History through American Sports: From Colonial Lacrosse to Extreme Sports. His published work also includes articles in Radical History Review, The Journal of American Culture, The Mailer Review, The American Prospect Online, and Public Relations Review, as well as many book chapters. Batchelor is a member of the editorial advisory boards of The Journal of Popular Culture and the International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning, and was recently named director of marketing and promotion for The John Updike Childhood Home Museum in Reading, PA.


"Each entry is supplemented with liberal notes and bibliography for further research and study, all of which are particularly helpful to those interested in advertising, consumer behavior, and American cultural history. . . . Recommended."—Choice, July 1, 2014
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