Endless Propaganda: The Advertising of Public Goods


365 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-8301-3
DDC 659.1'042




Reviewed by Robert W. Sexty

Robert W. Sexty is a professor of commerce and business administration
at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the author of Canadian
Business: Issues and Stakeholders.


The most important contribution of this review is to provide a
definition of “public goods” because the author fails to do so
explicitly and concisely. A public good is a commodity that involves a
risk or is bad, or good, for citizens. The advertising of such a
commodity promotes social well-being or dissuades the consumption or
involvement with an undesirable practice or belief. Examples of such
advertising, which the author calls “civic-advocacy,” include
campaigns advocating drug-free lifestyles, social justice, safe sex,
sober driving, and seat belt usage. This advertising is conducted by
governments, NGOs, foundations, and even businesses, and is based on the
same marketing principles used to advertise any product. A closely
related concept is social marketing examined in the business marketing
literature and defined as “the use of commercial marketing concepts
and tools in programs designed to influence individuals’ behaviors to
improve their well being and that of society”
(www.social-marketing.org). It is unfortunate that the author did not
use this clear and concise definition.

Rutherford’s preface provides essential information about his
approach to the subject. Five sections of the book trace the emergence,
expansion, and genres of advertising public goods. Each section begins
with a theoretical chapter in which the vocabulary and approach in the
chapters is outlined. Particular collections of advertisements are
focused on to illustrate the theory or cultural history identified. Once
alerted to this approach, the reader is aware that the theory chapters
serve to establish a framework for understanding the application of this
advertising. The author, a history professor, has utilized extensive
literature and draws on illustrations mainly from the United States but
also from Canada, Britain, and Western Europe.

This form of advocacy advertising is controversial because it involves
the manipulation of public attitudes and is being extensively used.
Endless Propaganda examines an issue that society has largely ignored,
and it alerts us to the possibility that public opinions and ideas are
being managed through professional marketing approaches.


Rutherford, Paul., “Endless Propaganda: The Advertising of Public Goods,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 27, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/30466.