The Adman’s Dilemma: From Barnum to Trump

By Paul Rutherford

© 2018

The Adman’s Dilemma is a cultural biography that explores the rise and fall of the advertising man as a figure who became effectively a licensed deceiver in the process of governing the lives of American consumers. Apparently this personage was caught up in a contradiction, both compelled to deceive yet supposed to tell the truth. It was this moral condition and its consequences that made the adman so interesting to critics, novelists, and eventually filmmakers.

The biography tracks his saga from its origins in the exaggerated doings of P.T. Barnum, the emergence of a new profession in the 1920s, the heyday of the adman’s influence during the post-WW2 era, the later rebranding of the adman as artist, until the apparent demise of the figure, symbolized by the triumph of that consummate huckster, Donald Trump.

In The Adman’s Dilemma, author Paul Rutherford explores how people inside and outside the advertising industry have understood the conflict between artifice and authenticity. The book employs a range of fictional and nonfictional sources, including memoirs, novels, movies, TV shows, websites, and museum exhibits to suggest how the adman embodied some of the strange realities of modernity.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Division: Scholarly Publishing
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 480 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
Product Formats

SaveUP TO 9239

Book Formats

SKU# SP005316

  • PUBLISHED AUG 2018

    From: $29.96

    Regular Price: $39.95

    ISBN 9781487522988
  • PUBLISHED AUG 2018

    From: $82.50

    Regular Price: $110.00

    ISBN 9781487503901
  • AVAILABLE SEP 2018

    From: $29.96

    Regular Price: $39.95

Quick Overview

Engaging with literature on advertising, philosophy, psychology, and cultural theory, as well as a range of fictional and nonfictional "texts", The Adman’s Dilemma traces the trajectory of the adman from the late nineteenth century to the present.

The Adman’s Dilemma: From Barnum to Trump

By Paul Rutherford

© 2018

The Adman’s Dilemma is a cultural biography that explores the rise and fall of the advertising man as a figure who became effectively a licensed deceiver in the process of governing the lives of American consumers. Apparently this personage was caught up in a contradiction, both compelled to deceive yet supposed to tell the truth. It was this moral condition and its consequences that made the adman so interesting to critics, novelists, and eventually filmmakers.

The biography tracks his saga from its origins in the exaggerated doings of P.T. Barnum, the emergence of a new profession in the 1920s, the heyday of the adman’s influence during the post-WW2 era, the later rebranding of the adman as artist, until the apparent demise of the figure, symbolized by the triumph of that consummate huckster, Donald Trump.

In The Adman’s Dilemma, author Paul Rutherford explores how people inside and outside the advertising industry have understood the conflict between artifice and authenticity. The book employs a range of fictional and nonfictional sources, including memoirs, novels, movies, TV shows, websites, and museum exhibits to suggest how the adman embodied some of the strange realities of modernity.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Division: Scholarly Publishing
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 480 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
  • Reviews

    "Using a wide variety of representations, from literature, to autobiography, to film and non-fiction critiques, this book tells the story of the adman, and addresses the ambivalence that practitioners and critics have about capitalism."


    Kathy M. Newman, Associate Professor, Department of English, Carnegie Mellon University

    "I have little hesitation in describing The Adman’s Dilemma as a major contribution to the field. It analyzes an immense body of commentary on and depictions of advertising practice more comprehensively than anyone has attempted before. It includes works of fiction and nonfiction, written by insiders and outsiders, both scholarly and popular. Paul Rutherford’s ability to deliver concise yet authoritative summaries on such a huge range of works is impressive in its own right and will be a valuable resource for scholars."


    Rob Schorman, Department of History, Miami University
  • Author Information

    Paul Rutherford is Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at the University of Toronto. He is the author of several books published by UTP, including When Television Was Young (1990), The New Icons? (1994), Endless Propaganda (2000), Weapons of Mass Persuasion (2004), and World Made Sexy (2007).
  • Table of contents

    Introduction: Enter “Don Draper”
    Prelude: The Con-Man, the Adman, and the Trickster
    1. The Huckster’s Game
    2. The Rise of the Advertising Agent
    3. Chronicles of Struggle
    4. A Worrisome Hegemony                 
    5. The Gospel of Creation
    6. A Tyranny of Signs
    Conclusion: Deception and Its Discontents
    Afterword: The Triumph of the Huckster
    The Moral of the Biography
    Endnotes
    Name Index