Juliann Sivulka


On her book Ad Women: How They Impact What We Need, Want, and Buy

Cover Interview of February 17, 2009


The aim of Ad Women is to shed light on the impact that women, as both producers and consumers, had on the making of consumer culture.  The power of the commercial images of Mr. and Mrs. Consumer, and the vigorous critique against them, obscure the many forces and the agency of women that gave form to American consumer culture.  This is the story of the possibilities and limits of the American dream.  It is also America’s story of the middle-class and a mass-consumer society.  And it is the story of how women took up reform, overcame barriers, and carved out a niche.

The response to the book has been encouraging.  Along with being positively reviewed as a must read book for historians, sociologists, marketing communications professionals, and consumers alike, it has also struck a chord with the ad industry.  Advertising legend Jerry Della Femina called the book “sweeping, insightful, encyclopedic” and “a must-read in any advertising class in the world.”

To me, the book is most important for examining the fact that women were actually a part of advertising history in the larger context of business and economic development, and for conveying the radical nature of that view.  Ad Women is not an adjustment of the existing story of advertising, but it rather presents an entirely new narrative.

© 2009 Juliann Sivulka