Ad Council Free Enterprise Ads

The Ad Council has created many famous ads: “Only you can prevent forest fires,” “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” and “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” However, did you know that the Ad Council was also tasked with convincing Americans of the merits of capitalism?

The ads below appeared between 1949 and 1961. It seems curious that anyone feared America might be lurching towards socialism at this time. Americans were flocking to their new homes in the suburbs, and the economy was booming – with only 6 percent of the world’s population, the US produced half of the world’s manufactured goods. Yet it appears that deep anxieties ran beneath the surface:

“The American way is threatened by ignorance,” wrote the Ad Council in 1949. “While Americans today are as favorably disposed toward their economic system as at any other time in American history, they cannot effectively defend it against attack unless they have a better knowledge of how that system works. Very few Americans have that knowledge. They can be mislead by exaggeration of its faults, be made to forget the benefits it has brought them. Especially if a recession came, wide popular understanding of the virtues of our system in comparison with others would be vital to its survival. Particularly in view of the propaganda attack from within and without, we had better get started now to bring to every American the basic facts about our economic system.”


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