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Collection National Screening Room

Made to Persuade: Advertising and Promotional Films

This presentation brings together a wide variety of films deploying diverse narrative approaches but all with the same goal: to sell a product or, sometimes, a person. Motion pictures have been used for promotional purposes practically since the medium was invented; for example, the oldest title in this collection is Admiral Cigarette (Edison, 1897). As "Made to Persuade" makes abundantly clear, the selling tactics film makers have used in the intervening decades are protean, from the blunt, graphics-heavy Buy an Electric Refrigerator (ca. 1926) to the history lesson offered by Schwinn in Magic of the Bicycle (1965) to The Ordeal of Thomas Moon, a 1957 film starring a young Dom DeLuise, intended for screenings with medical professionals, touting the virtues of Dexedrine as a weight loss drug while never mentioning the product.

"Made to Persuade" also includes several films made for political campaigns, including The Dewey Story (1948), produced for New York Governor Thomas Dewey's unsuccessful run against Harry S. Truman. It also features what is perhaps the most famous political commercial of all time, produced primarily by Tony Schwartz for President Lyndon B. Johnson's 1964 campaign. Its official title is "Peace, Little Girl," but is much better known as the "Daisy" ad. Time has not dimmed its visceral power.

Collection Items

Articles and Essays

Written by film scholar and collector Rick Prelinger and published in 2006 by the National Film Preservation Foundation, The Field Guide to Sponsored Films External is an indispensable resource for more information about advertising and promotional films, many of which are featured in Made to Persuade.