Consumerism and Advertising in 20th-Century Brazil
- Maria Claudia BonadioMaria Claudia BonadioFederal University of Juiz de Fora
In the early 20th century, due to the immigration of thousands of people from the countryside to urban centers, the large city became a symbol of modernity for many reasons, among them because it was where the shop windows, the lights in storefronts, posters on walls or trams, and billboards were concentrated. In the city, there was also greater access to the illustrated magazines that had started to circulate. Alongside city culture, the culture of advertising also emerged, changing the visual landscape. Advertising also echoed in the neighborhoods, with the voices of peddlers selling products at doorsteps. Propaganda, therefore, went through a modernization process, although old ways of advertising and selling continued. Consumption was also divided between the old and the new, since the opportunity to make purchases in glass-fronted department stores discouraged people from buying food products from street vendors who circulated around the neighborhoods. In the early years of the 20th century, the new visuality of advertising, which brought an air of modernity, was still at an amateur stage in Brazil or originated abroad. This scenario began to change at the beginning of the 20th century when the first advertising agency began to operate in Brazil (between 1913 and 1914). In the 1950s, the first Advertising College was created in the country to enhance the study and development of the field. Brazilian advertising would peak in the last three decades of the 20th century, when Brazilian advertisements, especially those produced for television, gained international prestige due to the many awards they received at international festivals. During the 1990s, some Brazilian publicists would become famous personalities, known throughout the country. The demand for higher education in the area began to grow.
Consumption in Brazil, however, suffered ups and downs due to various economic crises (and a few periods of growth), which possibly pushed Brazilian advertising to invest in creativity. On the other hand, forms of consumption went through major transformations in the form of new media and forms of commerce. Although the door-to-door sale of some types of food continued, the largest volume of purchases during the second half of the century occurred in large stores, malls, or hypermarkets, where you can find all sorts of products. From vegetables sold at the doorstep to washed, cut, and ready for consumption commercialized vegetables; from meat preserved in lard to canned sausage; from clothes made by dressmakers or seamstresses, to ready-made clothes; from fashion deriving from Hollywood cinema to fashion inspired by telenovelas; from radio or television shared by the family in the living room, to the subdivision of consumption via miniaturization and individualization of goods (phonograph and personal TV, Walkman, and portable CD player), from the dial-up phone that served all residents of the household to the cellphone—these are some of the most important changes in consumption over the 20th century.