10 Famous Movies About Advertising

Friday, February 25 by Lee Grayson

These 10 famous movies about advertising expose the industry's advertising techniques. Advertising is as old as products, but the big boon for advertising came for the U.S. consumer during the 1920s when consumers were encouraged to buy items on layaway and with credit. The die was cast and ad companies have been on a roll since that time. Television explored the role of advertisers on "Bewitched" (you remember Darin and Larry and the ad firm) and the more modern show "Mad Men." Film has not left advertising themes behind and a handful of famous movies feature advertising firms, campaigns and topics that question whether we really need all the hype. 

  1. "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" This 1967 film traces the adventures of J. Pierpont Finch who incorporates ideas from an advertising book with the same title as the film. The main character eventually ends up as a head of the Worldwide Wicket Company.
  2. "Network" While the main theme of this 1976 movie is television, advertising is also its major focus. Paddy Chayefsky's film deals with the promotion of a failing network and the extreme measures that one man took to promote his network. No spoiler alert here. You must watch the movie to know if he really killed himself to attract viewers. 
  3. "FM" The question this movie asks is why we listen to radio. The answers the film suggests are more music or more advertising. This 1978 movie struck a chord with young adults of the time who were into ad-free FM radio programming. 
  4. "Beer" Advertising is the main focus of this film that focuses on a failing advertising firm and the efforts of the ad agents to promote a beer company. The heroes for the ad firm are three beer drinkers who thwart a bar robbery. 
  5. "Bob Roberts" A tongue and cheek approach to promoting a candidate, this film follows the ad campaign of candidate Bob Roberts for the U.S. Senate. Released in 1992, Roberts is played by Tim Robbins.
  6. "Wayne's World" Garth and Wayne are the stuff of film legend. The duo goes big time with their home-based program and advertiser Ben Oliver is now taking the job of promoting the casual duo with formal advertising. The film was released in 1992.
  7. "The Hudsucker Proxy" Industrialist Waring Hudsucker ends it all and the board of directors of his company decide to substitute the recently departed Hudsucker with a member of the mail room. The 1994 film stars Tim Robbins in the main role. 
  8. "Renaissance Man" This 1994 movie stars Danny DeVito as an ad man who loses his job and is required to teach at a military base for unemployment funds. DeVito doesn't lose his slick nature for making a sale and uses his advertising philosophy in teaching his new students. 
  9. "Tin Men" Richard Dreyfuss, Barbara Hershey and Danny DeVito star in this 1987 film about aluminum siding sales. While it's difficult to believe that metal house siding was as important as the film portrays, one look in old neighborhoods shows that rival siding companies probably did go at it tooth and nail to attract customers. 
  10. "Suits" The advertising slogan that promotes the product in this 1999 film is "The pad ain't bad." The movie plot deals with a mainstream advertising firm in their promotion for sanitary napkins, now called feminine hygiene products, by advertisers.