War of the Words

The advertising industry fervently believed it could make a difference to America’s welfare during World War II. The Ad Council, formed in 1941 to promote social change with advertising, quickly focused its attention on the war after Pearl Harbor. “If advertising and advertising people play the part they are capable of playing, then fewer men will die,” said Raymond Rubicam, founder of Young & Rubicam and a colleague of the council’s volunteer CEO, Y&R chairman Chester J. LaRouche.

The council reports that a billion dollars’ worth of its advertising supported the war effort from ’42 to ’45, promoting causes including secrecy, conservation and financial contributions. During the last two years of the war, more than half of all advertising in general-interest magazines featured patriotic motifs.

Working with the Office of War Information, the council also disseminated fact sheets to copywriters and radio producers to use in advertising and programming. One producer so thoroughly integrated helpful factoids into his drama that a dying character’s words of wisdom were, “As many as 1,700 V-Mail letters will fit in a space the size of a cigarette pack.”