As a bit of background, I’m really fascinated by old ads, which spawned this site’s idea. Looking at old magazines, I find the ads sometimes more interesting than the articles. For instance, the abundance of accepted stereotypes of the day. Advertisers have a commercial interest to speak to the dreams of the audience – and fabricate new dreams – so they are a mirror of their times. A completely distorted mirror, more often than not, but still a revealing reflection! The further you go back in time, the more obvious and often obviously incorrect the message becomes. But while the message may grow more subtle as time progresses onwards, the intent of selling stuff remains, as do many of the tricks of the trade: like social proof* (“Everybody on this party is drinking Coke! It’s the normal thing to do!”); the authoritative argument (“8 out of 10 doctors say...”); building on nostalgia (“Still remember when grandpa gave you this chocolate?”); growing fear (“Nobody will love you when you have X, Y or Z!”); maximizing energy waste and consumption (“My kids always ask me to buy two packs of this!”); suggesting exclusivity (“Not for everyone, and in limited edition... don’t take a chance.”); aiding memorization (“Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, I Love Delsey And so Will You!”); nurturing individualism and freedom (“I’m free to smoke!”); appealing to primal needs (“The scent that women desire.”); or strengthening associations through repetition of visuals and words (“Coke... Refreshing... Coke... Refreshing”).
There’s another side to it, though: often, the further you go back in time, the more gorgeous the ad’s illustrations become. Many of the advertisements of the earlier decades of the last century are full grown, beautiful paintings in their own right. There’s also an immense amount of creativity found across all decades. As Alan Moore once said when talking about the craft of writing: to manipulate consciousness by manipulating words.
*Wikipedia explains, “Social proof, also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon that occurs in ambiguous social situations when people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior. Making the assumption that surrounding people possess more knowledge about the situation, they will deem the behavior of others as appropriate or better informed.”
>> More posts