Yesterday was the first day of a class I am taking about the Cold War Era in books, film, and images, like the one above. Today we saw Soviet propaganda films from 1924 to the 1960s and discussed several propaganda posters. Before class we read a 30-page article about Soviet cartoons and cartoonists.
Among the cartoonists, Boris Efimov story was chilling. He lived from the beginning of the 20th century, either 1899 or 1900 until 2008. He drew cartoons for the entire Soviet era.
In interviews he said he drew what he was told to draw, Soviets as heroes, westerners as fat and greedy. In his tale, I remembered both seeing Soviet posters when I was stationed in Germany in the 1970s and at home in newspapers and on TV.
I worked at an ad agency for 13 years and have worked in marketing communications of various kinds for the past 30 years. What stands out in the Soviet images is how well they controlled their "brand." From the 1920s to the end of the Soviet Union in the 1980s, the image of the Soviet citizen/worker/soldier was a strong, tall, clean, happy man or woman. The capitalist enemy was fat, greedy, foolish and deceptive.
If you are going to create and impression through media, this control is very important. And as the world changes, the brand has to stay consistent. So with Ford, the brand image is quality, reliability, and performance though the actual product has changed from a Model T to a Ford GT.
The brand image is the coolest car on the road whether it's 1908 or 2015. And the Soviet's controlled their image just that well--and exploited every weakness in their enemies.
Their propaganda was effective enough to keep me and 250,000 other American soldiers permanently stationed in Germany to defend Western Europe from an attack we thought could come at any time. Our tanks were fully loaded with cannon ammunition and ready to fight when World War 3 started. When we went to the border, we saw this on the other side of the fence.
They convinced us!