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Apostles of Americanization? J. Walter Thompson Company Ltd, Advertising and Anglo-American Relations 1945-67

Nixon, S (2008) 'Apostles of Americanization? J. Walter Thompson Company Ltd, Advertising and Anglo-American Relations 1945-67.' Contemporary British History, 22 (4). 477 - 499. ISSN 1361-9462

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The paper explores how the concern with the apparent 'Americanization' of British commerce and culture played out within the world of London advertising in the post-war period. In doing so, it engages with, and partly challenges, a pervasive line of argument within economic and cultural history that has emphasized the influence of American commercial power over Europe's economies in the immediate post-war decades. Historians of this period, like contemporary commentators before them, have tended to privilege the dominance of what Victoria de Grazia has recently termed America's irresistible 'Market Empire' in their exploration of trans-Atlantic relations. In this paper, I take the case of JWT London, a US-owned multinational advertising agency, and its relationship with its parent company in order to revise claims about US commercial domination. JWT is an instructive case because it was a classic example of an international advertising agency in the era of high American commercial expansion. Yet the organization of its London office and the relations between London and New York reveal a picture of business practices that complicates assumptions about American commercial domination. JWT London was not the bold apostle of the American vision of its parent company, but rather it sought to soften and not aggressively assert the corporate identity and commercial ethos of its American parent. In this regard, JWT London, like other US companies before it and since, worked to shed its Americanness and go native. To insist on this process of indigenization is not to deny the authority of US models of commercial life in this period. Rather it is to suggest that even within a US-owned company like J. Walter Thompson, American commercial influences took particular forms in Britain and that the American domination over Europe was neither monolithic nor homogeneous nor irresistible.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
E History America > E151 United States (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Sociology, Department of
Depositing User: Jim Jamieson
Date Deposited: 18 Jan 2013 12:55
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2019 16:16

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