As an aesthetic, economic, and cultural practice, advertising has played a pivotal role in shaping the history of virtually every modern communications medium. In its ubiquity and everyday ephemerality, avantgardist designs, and persuasive rhetorics advertising over the course of the last century has become an epitome of modernity as much as of pop culture; it is inextricably connected to capitalism, material cultures, lifestyles, and media histories. While frequently identified with American consumerism, motion picture advertisements have always been part and parcel of European visual culture, too. Since the 19th century’s magic lantern slides, moving image advertising has formed European sensibilities, stimulated media production, caused controversies and even started distinctive film-making careers. Moving across media as much as the globe, advertising has left a myriad of traces in moving image archives whose vast holdings are just beginning to be explored. On the one hand, the shape in which these rich source materials are stored in archives has provided obstacles to further exploration. At the same time, the preservation and accessibility of these archival sources requires answers to questions about the cultural and aesthetic value of the material at hand.
Bringing together archivists and adacemics, Films that Sell is the very first volume that is specifically dedicated to the history of moving image advertising. Our book will contain an original collection of historical, conceptual and archival contributions written by international experts in the field, and will be complemented with collection presentations and an annotated bibliography. This book thus will contribute to salient debates on archival practices and media transformation processes by asking questions such as: How did the forms and formats of moving image advertising emerge across media and over time? How to define and analyze advertising films, and how to account for the respective films’ place in a broad field of ever-changing media practices? And what about the history of advertising’s production and exhibition contexts? How to select, preserve and present advertising films stored in existing archival collections? How to account for the role of advertising agencies in the emergence of media industries? Finally, in what ways might advertising become a starting point for studying industry aesthetics more broadly?