World War II Ads – Government Messages to Raise War Awareness and Support


In 1941, after the Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor, (December 7) the United States entered World War 2. It launched its own rationing program where Americans were only allowed to buy and ration domestic goods such as local shoes, cars etc.

The British government and American government were interested in raising awareness among the general public for the Second World War and gain their support as well. The government conducted many advertisements themselves while they also took help from different brands. Due to this reason major companies had to find a way to make people conscious about the war. The major companies had to rely on advertising the World War 2 ads through magazines and newspapers. Many large companies such as General Motors, Nestle, etc, used these methods to advertise their brands and have spread awareness of their brand names. There were other state companies as well stating their own messages to aware the people of the situations happening at that time.

There were many ads in that time each of which had a different way of spreading awareness. Some of the major ones are described below:

Salvage Posters

The British Government used a series of salvage posters in order to gain attention from the general public. One famous ad stated “Still more paper, rags, and bones wanted for salvage”  with the aim to collect the useless items from the general public and use them to manufacture different types of war supplies as well. There were many other types of ads which urged the public to throw the litter in the bins mostly paper, rags, metal, and bones.

Careless Talk Posters

The careless talk posters urged the general public to not speak any unnecessary information as it could potentially leak out any important information. A careless talk poster that was published in British newspapers stated “You forget but she remembers: Careless talks cost lives”. There was another similar ad which showed a soldier and stated that “Careless talk may take his life”. 

General Motors

The American government collaborated with General Motors. General Motors ad was based on the tires being of the best quality. “Some things” the heading stressing on love and high quality tires, “never change.” Although it encouraged its viewers not to buy the tires during the war time, it did motivate them to buy war bonds.  The ad was based on a picture of a US military officer standing beside a white fence, and staring lovingly at a girl who is assumed to be waiting for him to come back home.  The ad promoted General Motors and at the same time showed their company to be patriotic by the whole message.

The World War 2 ads were selling an American future, by providing a positive mindset to the civilians that it would be over soon and they could imagine the future economy improved in America due to these ads. Simultaneously, the companies promoting themselves from the ads were fulfilling their goal of brand awareness and providing positive vibes for their brand name by being patriotic.

Coca Cola

In 1942, Coca Cola promoted its brand with an ad that stated the drink to be providing refreshment by being the answer to thirst and giving a hearty welcome. The ad comprised of soldiers and officers having coca cola and smiling.  This ad not only showed that the brand was providing a unifying image of soldiers at war but also that the brand gave them an environment of refreshment even at the prolonged days of depression.  This world war 2 ad was providing the viewers awareness of their brand. Moreover, it gave an image that the company was not focusing on only profit making but at such hard times it was present as a logo of unity.

Pennsylvania Railroad-822 gave their lives (1945-10)

This was not seen as a normal ad as it showed the unity and sacrifices that were made at that time. It gave a message that their nation was fighting for freedom. This ad showed the Pennsylvania Railroad employees that had joined the army forces and sacrificed in the name of their nation.  This had not only promoted how brave the employees of the railroad company were but also aroused the emotions of the civilians, uniting them and being proud of their nation.

US Employment Service

At such a time of hard work and sacrifices made by the army, the US wanted their local people to be working as well, to lower the catastrophes the war would bring. Their ad stated a woman holding some paper in her arms and had the heading of “Longing won’t bring him back soon, get a war job!” encouraging women to apply for jobs rather than stressing over their husbands fighting in the war and waiting for them. The government gave them a chance to help as well during the war by applying in the US employment service to increase their local economic development.

American Ration Campaign

In 1942 the US government wanted to encourage Americans to ration and donate goods and buy war bonds. Many ads were based on a collaboration of the government and the companies who wanted to advertise, such as general motors; to promote the buying of war bonds.  To provide awareness to the civilians of the nationwide sacrifices being made, they established a war advertising council.

There was a voluntary participation in the council with the benefit of the companies of the government paying usually 80% of their advertising bills, increasing their brand awareness and letting people know of what was going on and promoting war bonds. The council managed all the campaigns that the government wanted.

This ad was aimed to bring awareness to share different types of ration supplies with others close to you.


The governments of different types of countries focused on creating awareness themselves as well as through the different businesses. Much of the campaigns were later on considered to be quite successful. These also provided the local companies a chance to unify their society by providing them awareness of the circumstances that were occurring.