Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wonders of Ancient Advertising

We often like to crow to our clients how the latest digital tools let us access audiences in increasingly personal and customized ways.

But previous generations of admen were no less determined or innovative; the tools they used just involved a lot more hard work.

My Mom recently passed me down these two postcards, which her father had kept from the time when his first employer (a jeweller in Prescott, Ontario) received them in 1938. (Click images to see larger versions.)

The front of the first card is cool enough, with its epic 1930s illustration of one of the original Seven Wonders of the World. But it's the back that really intrigued me:

It's promoting a Shell garage in Prescott, to a small business owner in Prescott. That's simple enough. But Shell went to the trouble not only to personalize the message, but to have its stamped, sent and postmarked from Italy. In an era when international travel was prohibitively expensive (and dangerous, since World War II was brewing), this little piece of exotica that mentioned advertiser and recipient by name must have been extremely impressive. Easy for an international company to pull off, sure. But that was a more innocent time.

There was another one, too:

This was sent from Turkey, featuring another Wonder (and one that still exists, in part). It must have had a similar effect.

My Grandfather was a passionate stamp collector, so he probably kept these for their philatelical value. I can only assume the campaign was intended to include all Seven Wonders. (You'll note there was a booklet, too.) Whether all seven were ever sent remains a mystery to me. But I do know that within a few months, we were at war with some of these places.

A great reminder that nothing can stop a determined advertiser, and that there is nothing new under the sun.


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