Written by: Mathew Sweezey
Edited by: Alberta Deacon
Why do I love James Bond movies so much? Simple. Beautiful women; James is a bad ass; things blow up; and there is always a villain. The villain is always a mastermind behind the scenes, and this is what makes villains so appealing to us. They give fodder to our illusion that there may be evil people behind things causing so much havoc. We find comfort in knowing evil is the result of a single person rather than unexplained coincidences. In recent history, advertising itself has been seen as evil, but is it really so? We’ll have to take a trip back to the beginning of advertising and look at its roots in America to really get a better idea.
When I was doing my research on the beginnings of the advertising industry in the United States, I came across a possible villain in the story of its creation which may suggest it was started as the result of an evil master plan. If you take a look at the start of the advertising industry in America and the effects of the first mass marketing campaign used in a Presidential election, you might see a possible scenario where a single villain was behind the scenes pulling strings which reaped them rewards of epic proportions giving light to the idea that advertising really had its roots as an evil master plan.
It all began with Andrew Jackson’s 1828 Presidential campaign which used printed and mass distributed flyers and resulted in a landslide decision making him the 7th President of the United States of America. His campaign used the tag line “The Union must be Prepared.” His campaign came on the heels of the Industrial Revolution and benefited from modern printing and distribution methods. This spawned the first marketing revolution in the United States and forever changed the face of marketing as well as politics. The question, when you look at the facts, is how was this advertising campaign conceived in 1828 when the first advertising firm wasn’t founded in America for another 22 years? How did a man, who many thought to be an “uneducated ruffian,” hit on such a ground breaking technique?
To better understand the magnitude of the 1828 election, you should know that Jackson had lost the election of 1824 due to an Electoral College decision, even though he carried the popular vote. Frustrated to a point of extremes, he spent the next four years planning a new campaign. Whether he invented mass advertising or was given the idea, the result was mass marketing in the political sphere which was changed forever by this simple 1828 campaign flyer. It was widely distributed around the country to take advantage of the new laws governing voting. Between the elections of 1824 and 1828, the voting laws changed, and more people were allowed to vote. No longer were rich land owners the only voters; the common man was allowed to vote as well. Jackson capitalized on this. Notice the details of the ad: the style of dress, fashionable yet not too pompous, the use of military cannons and other paraphernalia, and the enlarged typeset of his last name. Through imagery, he lets you know he’s a common man, a war hero, and a leader. He was after the common man and the popular vote.
To gain greater appeal, he devised basic techniques such as holding picnics and fund raising parties to garner mass support. He produced the first political propaganda flyer and learned how to sell to the ordinary man. His efforts raised over $1 million dollars for his campaign when the average wage for a man was $.50 per day. With the total United States population at a little over 12 million, voter turnout was 57% of the population. So for every five voters who entered the voting booth, he was able to have two of them give him a full days wages to support his campaign. If this same ratio were to have happened in the 2012 elections, it would have meant a single candidate would have raised $10.4 billion (130 million voters times the average days salary of $200.) In comparison, all parties combined in the 2012 Presidential election campaign only raised $4.2 billion.
Jackson was a visionary in the world of marketing with his campaign in 1828. His techniques helped him raise an absurd amount of money, which allowed for the mass advertising methodologies he used, which ultimately lead to an easy victory. The final count was 178 electoral votes for Jackson, only 83 for Adams, his closet competition. Jackson only needed 131 to win. His campaign was an outright success, but the question is, where did these ideas and the money to implement them, come from, and who ultimately benefited from this win?
Let’s follow the money to really find the core of modern advertising’s origins. The first advertising agency was started in London in 1786, followed by other agencies beginning in the early 1800s. If you dig deep, you can find who benefited the most from these agencies. You’ll notice it was the share holders of the corporations for whom the advertising campaigns were run. The major shareholders were the banks who financed the Industrial Revolution. The largest banking family in London were the Rothschilds. This family of London elite was not only invested in London’s banks, but also the First and the Second Bank of the United States. This is where things become interesting.
The Rothchilds ran the largest banks in London and had already seen the power of advertising working for the companies they had invested in via their London banks. They knew what advertising was and had seen it working for over 20 years as their banks reaped massive profits from the Industrial Revolution. Despite the Rothschild’s opposition to Jackson’s campaign, it seems they had the most to gain from his Presidency and may have seen this well before he was elected. The question is, would they give Jackson the knowledge of advertising while at the same time funding his opposition’s campaign to the tune of $3 million dollars?
Jackson supported the ending of the Second Bank of the United States. It was suggested that ending the Bank would mean a financial crisis, just as it did in 1812 with the closing of the First National Bank. After the First Bank of the United States was closed, the War of 1812 began and landed the United States in debt. The debt as a result of the War went from $45 to $119 million in three years (a profit of $1 billion in 2014 dollars.) The major financier of the War were the Rothschilds via their many banks and interest in other banks. This windfall profit does not include the cost Britain paid to go to war with United States, which would be another sizable profit to banks owned by the Rothschilds. To put this into perspective as to why the Rothchilds might have given Jackson the advertising ideas, the Rothchilds were invested in the Second Bank of the
United States. However, the profits from this investment were small. The hope for their investment in the bank was to control the largest growth sector of the world by controlling the funding source for American expansion. The issue with this investment was that the Second Bank of the United States only held $35 million and gave a dividend of only $650 thousand during this time to its investors. With this rate of return, the Rothschilds would have to wait 100 years for their investment in the Bank to pay what the War of 1812 made for them in three years.
This brings up the question, were they in the business of starting wars or strictly banking? I propose they found the best way to increase money is to make the biggest loans, and the most expensive investments on the planet are wars, not businesses. Wars are also backed by governments who are much more reliable in their payments of war debt than businesses are on loans. There is much more to lose for a country defaulting on its debt than a business on theirs. After their realization of the profit from wars, their main issue was how to start more wars. They knew that to bring a country into war, they would have to allow that country to bring themselves into it and the bank not be seen as the provocateur. So the $3 million dollar investment into the campaign of John Q. Adams in 1832 to oppose Jackson gave them the protection to say, “We want to keep the Bank. It’s in our financial interest for it to succeed.” With this play, they could not go wrong. Should the Bank stay in existence, they would own an arm which would finance the expansion of the United States; should they lose their $3 million dollar investment, this would lead to the collapse of the Bank and financial instability for the United States.
After his election in 1828, Jackson fought for seven years to disassembled the National Bank. After his reelection in 1832, he succeeded in closing the Bank in 1835. The result was a depressed United States economy and inflated tensions among the citizens, which was a leading spark to the Civil War 30 years later. Later on, it was found out that the Rothchilds had financed both the South and the North during the Civil War. Yes, they invested $3 million in opposition of Jackson in the 1834 election, however, as a result of political instability, they reaped rewards in the many multiples of this by financing both sides of the War. So it is highly plausible Jackson’s advertising techniques came from London via the bankers who had already seen mass marketing work in their country. They saw an advantage to be had by giving these ideas to Jackson, whose election would lead to the instability of the United States as a result of disbanding the Second Bank of the Unites States and another war.
You could say this is just a conspiracy theory and dig a bit deeper to find out Andrew Jackson already knew about mass mail and the distribution of ideas. He had appointed Rufus Easton to be the first Post Master of St. Louis in 1805, so he had specific knowledge of the mail system and its ability to get ideas out to people and connections to make a campaign on this level happen. His relationship with Illinois also helped him during the election of 1828. Jackson carried 67% of the popular vote in Illinois. That was his highest vote percentage of any state outside of the South, so it is likely a combination of many waves which caused this massive flood of support for Jackson.
Regardless of where the ideas came from for the political campaign of 1828, you can see it was the beginning of many of the modern mass advertising technique and political marketing masteries we still use today. The question of why or how is irrelevant at this point, but either way it makes this campaign the foundation of some of the largest marketing campaigns to follow. Since then, there has not been a single Presidential campaign which has not used mass marketing or the fundraising created by Jackson and his colleagues. President Obama was credited in 2012 with the first use of social media, but really he was just expanding on the foundation of mass marketing laid by Andrew Jackson almost 200 years before.
So is advertising evil? It is no more evil than words, and as we all know a word is only a word. It is the tone, the spirit, and the use of the word that gives it the power of good or evil. Was advertising sent to America as a part of an evil scheme? That is highly unlikely. It is more likely the idea of multiples was at play. This is the concept that multiple people have the same idea at the same time while in different places. Just like the theory of evolution conceived by both Darwin and Wallace at the same time without any communication between them. It is more likely Jackson or someone on his staff was smarter than we give them credit for and as a result started the advertising revolution in the United States. So there may be evil behind some advertising campaigns, but advertising is not evil in its own right.