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Selling Soldiering to Consumers: Advertising, Media, and the Volunteer Army

Ghilani, Jessica (2013) Selling Soldiering to Consumers: Advertising, Media, and the Volunteer Army. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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A study of the United States military’s recruiting during the “all-volunteer,” post-conscription era requires synthesizing scholarship on advertising, propaganda, and politics. Throughout the twentieth century, before the draft ended, advertisers contracted by the US government waged countless national campaigns meant to inform, persuade, and rally, producing what cultural historian Paul Rutherford describes as the “colonization of the American public sphere.” Some of the most iconic advertisements touted military service. “We Can Do It!” and “Uncle Sam Wants You” are icons of American recruitment history that originated as advertisements in propaganda posters. Their legacy remains potent after decades of distance. In the late 1960s during the Vietnam War, the United States military faced numerous public relations challenges due in part to the momentum of the anti-war movement. The mass medium of advertising provided a venue in which image control could be asserted. With a major shift toward the volunteer concept of manpower recruitment and retention impending, advertising strategies became more important than ever before. This project investigates the role of advertising in transitioning the army branch, in particular to a volunteer recruitment model. The army has had the largest ranks to fill and the most challenged reputation, which is why it is also the branch that enjoys the largest recruiting budget. Drawing on rich archival materials and extensive research, I argue that the origins of volunteer-era recruiting strategies predate the overturn of the draft by decades and that recruiting advertisements operate ideologically in addition to their practical intent. By tracing the evolving conceptions of service in depictions, I examine the cultural influences, political contexts, public policy, and visual representations that enabled the volunteer military to be a success. In revealing the above, I also provide an overview of the history of the advertising industry’s partnerships with the department of defense across the twentieth century.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Ghilani, Jessicajlgst83@pitt.eduJLGST83
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairZboray, Ronaldzboray@pitt.eduZBORAY
Committee MemberOlson, Lesterolson@pitt.eduOLSON
Committee MemberBrent, Malinbmalin@pitt.eduBMALIN
Committee MemberFlannery, Kathrynflannery@pitt.eduFLANNERY
Date: 8 October 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 5 August 2013
Approval Date: 8 October 2013
Submission Date: 13 August 2013
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 323
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Communication: Rhetoric and Communication
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: advertising, military recruitment, communication, media studies, gender studies, public relations, American history
Date Deposited: 08 Oct 2013 22:07
Last Modified: 08 Oct 2018 05:15


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