Tuesday, January 12, 2010

We've come a long way... baby?

**First off, let me apologize in advance for blowing any chance that you're going to have a productive day at work.**

You always know you're on to something good when more than one trusted Internet friend forwards you the same awesome new link within the course of a day. That's what happened yesterday, when I was directed to vintageadbrowser.com/ by both a former, and a current, Acart digital boss.

There are lots of vintage ad galleries out there, like AdClassix, and blogs like Found in Mom's Basement. But a new and well-stocked archive is always exciting to browse.

This one goes back to the origins of print advertising, in the Victorian era. That was before the invention of sophisticated creative strategy, which (according to The Age of Persuasion) is when Canadian-born John E. Kennedy summed it up as "salesmanship on paper".

Pretty soon, ads started really talking to people, addressing such modern problems as what to do when the servants fail to bring you a prompt and nutritious breakfast. (We've all been there, haven't we?)

Okay, so the copy was rather primitive. But mass production, a burgeoning middle class, improved logistics and mass communications were on the march. Now, advertising promised you robust and genetically superior children:

And even exotic new foods, like what them Eye-talians is eating:

Speaking of cultural diversity, the site contains plenty of the nasty side of vintage advertising (with a strong disclaimer). We're reminded of a time when lampooning and generally demeaning our fellow human beings was considered jolly good fun:

(But then again, after viewing a recent KFC Australia ad, you're reminded we haven't really progressed that far after all.)

Women were were also treated poorly by the ads of the day, which reinforced the idea that their job was to stay pretty and placate hungover husbands with food:

That attitude actually continued, in more subtle forms, well into my childhood:

And then there are the tobacco ads, promoting patriotic smoking in VA hospitals:

Or eating things that were just plain wrong:

So, how far have we come — as a society and as an industry? Are we still stereotyping people? Selling them stuff they don't need by playing on their insecurities? Making them fat and happy?

Feel free to give me more contemporary examples below. I'll leave you with this ad, which I found oddly endearing:

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