Wendy Melillo

Journalist. Author. Educator.

How McGruff and the Crying Indian Changed America: A History of Iconic Ad Council Campaigns details how public service advertising campaigns have been influenced by corporations and the government, becoming part of our national conversation and changing us as a society.

In this book, Wendy Melillo discovers that Smokey Bear helps the U.S. Forest Service promote policies that increase wildfire activity and that the Crying Indian shifted blame for pollution from industry to individuals. She investigates these and many other Ad Council campaigns, including McGruff the Crime Dog and Rosie the Riveter, that have drawn both praise and criticism over the years.

Reviews & Praise

Wendy Melillo takes us through the creation of the ad characters and public service messages that we saw as kids and are ingrained in our minds forever. It turns out that such quirky characters as Smokey Bear, the Crying Indian, and McGruff the Crime Dog provide a unique and fascinating lens through which to analyze the entire cultural history of post-World War II America. This quick-paced and entertaining book takes a bite out of our collective advertising history.
— Barbara Lippert, advertising and columnist for MediaPost
While fame and glory in the advertising world tend to focus on the big names and bright lights of Madison Avenue, many of the most profoundly significant campaigns of the past seventy years have come from the often overlooked presence of the Ad Council. In telling the Council’s story for the first time, Melillo has created a fascinating read for anyone interested in the media, communications, and social history. You’ll never quite look at public service ads the same way again.
— Mike Bloxham, Executive Director, Media Behavior Institute
Melillo reveals the occasionally conflicted and always complicated relationships among special interests, the advertising world, and the public. In this page-turner of a study, she excavates the stories beneath some of America’s most iconic PSAs, in the process exploring the twists and turns of the nation’s cultural history.
— William Uricchio, Professor and Director, MIT Comparative Media Studies Program
It’s a smart, provocative look at some of the most important ad campaigns in American history — from Smokey Bear, ‘only you can prevent forest fires,’ to the United Negro College Fund, ‘a mind is a terrible thing to waste,’ to McGruff, the dog famed for taking ‘a bite out of crime.’ On the surface, the famed campaigns, which span 70 years, read like a compendium of advertising’s glory. But like all good reporters, Melillo digs deeper. And what she uncovers is revelatory. For anyone interested in the compelling elements of American advertising history and the nature of social messaging, Melillo’s insightful and eye-opening book is a must-read.
— Fern Siegel, Deputy Editor, MediaPost, writing for Huffington Post
From the back stories of McGruff and Smokey through the conflicts of political polarization, this compact history of the Ad Council puts the relationship between government and the advertising industry in fresh perspective. Solid reporting and analysis from Melillo, a former Pulitzer nominee for the Washington Post, distinguish this first history of the Ad Council to date.
— Kirkus Reviews