I’m sitting here thinking about an email I got last night and drinking my hot tea with a delicious chocolate chip cookie. A friend forwarded the email so I don’t know its origin, but if you want a great laugh, try finding funny billboards in Canada. Honestly, they are not only creative but they are funny with an edge and some are a bit risque. I think they would never appear in the USA. Why I think that is a whole other story.

My husband and I were both advertising copywriters from 1953 on in Los Angeles. I left the business in 1972 but my husband continued until 1995. The period of the ’50’s and ’60’s is thought by many ad people to be the period of the greatest ads. It has been called a part of the creative revolution. By the way, my husband and I do not relate to “Mad Men” in any way.

That famous Volkswagen ad, “Think Small,” was the beginning and the company went on to produce many memorable ads about that little car. My husband worked in the Los Angeles office of the New York agency and in LA, they did not do print ads but rather did the billboards. My husband worked on the VW boards as well as on the famous ones created for American Airlines. One of the best known featured the line, “Don’t Keep A Lady Waiting” and the photo was of the Statue of Liberty. It was of course selling a trip to New York.

Before the 1950’s, advertising was mainly filled with facts and no humor or real concepts. “Buy Now,” “Free,” “Hurry In”were the major headlines followed by bullets (dots) giving each one of the simple facts about a product. The layouts looked like firework bursts and the idea was to try and shout a customer into buying.

Starting in the 1950’s, ads took on a clean look with a wonderful photo, simple type for the headline and copy, and plenty of white space. But the most important thing was that there was a twist to the message and usually it was humorous or at least very creative. Often, you had to be intelligent to “get it.”

The computer was just beginning to be a factor in television in the early ’50’s. None of the high tech creations were used then. Now, in my opinion, too much emphasis is placed on the tech look of the commercial and not much on the concept. Of course, I am from a generation that started my first job in 1949. Thank goodness!

There are quite a few web or blog sites devoted to vintage advertising if you are interested. There’s lots of information at the Advertising Age website adage.com.

Many popular writers began their career in the advertising business. It was also lots of fun to be part of the revolution. Hope you enjoyed this tiny bit of history.

COMING NEXT: Communication Is More Than Talking


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