“… compelling glimpse of American advertising’s artists and hucksters at work …"

– Detroit Free Press


Advertising is the most ubiquitous expression of American culture — not only pitching products, but acting as a town crier for capitalism and the American way of life. Selling the Dream (60 min.) explores the powerful world of advertising images and those who create them. The program interweaves behind-the-scenes the story of today’s ultra-sophisticated advertising with the evolution of an industry that both shapes and mirrors popular culture.

The film follows the creation of a $100 million national campaign for Mitsubishi cars and looks at the Nike ad campaign of the early 1990’s which featured superstar athletes. Reaching back into history, it examines the multi-million dollar industry from early information ads to today’s slick and polished campaigns.

While consumers don’t really believe the products depicted in advertising will bring them the success, pleasure or romance suggested by the artistry of Madison Avenue, former Federal Trade Commission chairman Michael Pertschuk believes the cumulative effect of thousands of ads is to tell us that the way to solve all of life’s problems is to look for a product. “The real solutions to life’s problems…come most often through things that can’t be sold in the marketplace. And that, advertising doesn’t tell us — because there’s nobody around to pay for it.”

Aired on PBS Smithsonian World in 1991.