Step into a time machine to the 1950s and you’ll spot many differences in the way products were advertised. Brand messages were simpler, layouts were far cleaner and the copy was much, much longer.
While some elements of vintage advertising are rightly regarded as outdated relics that no longer work in the digital age, others remain just as effective today as they were more than 60 years ago.
In this blog post, we’ll explore five vintage advertising techniques used in classic ad campaigns like the ones you’ve seen on Mad Men. If you’re a marketer, you might be able to recognize many of these techniques – albeit in an updated form – in some of today’s most popular advertising campaigns.
To get the most from these vintage advertising examples, you’ll need to understand the basic principles of advertising. Join more than 2,800 students in our Marketing Communications: Advertising and Promotions course to start learning now.
From giant billboards on Fifth Avenue to tiny classified ads in the back of your local newspaper, the advertisements of yesteryear were significantly less cluttered with color, design elements and branding than those of today.
The iconic Volkswagen advertisement above might look boring and overly simple to today’s audience, but when it was released in the late 1950s it broke new ground in the design of simple but effective advertising.
There’s very little to it: just a small picture of the car, a headline, and body copy that explains its value. Compare it with most of today’s print advertisements, which pack every inch of space with content, and its eye-catching nature becomes clear.
Advertisements don’t need to be complicated in order to be effective. In fact, simple ads are usually the best ones. Take a page from a 1950s advertising guidebook and simplify your display and print media ads to the bare minimum of design elements.
Although the design of these ads might be simple, the process of designing them isn’t as simple as it might appear to be. Learn the art of designing simple ads that make a great impression with Marketing Graphics Design today.
Have you ever clicked an online advertisement and been directed to a long webpage that’s packed with copy? As a marketer, your first instinct might be to click the back button and assume that no one could possibly be convinced by a wall of sales text.
Like other instincts, the aversion many marketers have to long copy isn’t completely right. While short copy might be the go-to approach of today’s marketers, long copy was a stable of vintage advertising that remains incredibly effective today.
From direct mail letters to online sales pages, long copy can be used to demonstrate the benefits and unique advantages to a far greater degree than your average short and simple landing page.
In fact, many online marketers have found that switching from modern advertising formats, which are heavy on images and short on copy, to long copy has doubled or even tripled their average conversion rate.
Don’t be afraid of making your users scroll to reach your call to action. If your copy offers the right combination of persuasion and personality, they’ll be happy to keep reading it.
Would you like to learn how to write persuasive sales copy that converts website visitors into customers at an incredible conversion rate? Professional Copywriting Training will guide you through the basics of great copywriting.
Although radio advertising may no longer be the commercial force it once was, the classic slogans and jingles of 1950s and 1960s advertising remain just as effective today as they were ‘back in the day.’
From “For everything else, there’s MasterCard” to “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand,” the classic slogans of companies like MasterCard and M&Ms are still well-known today – in the case of M&Ms, 60 years after it was trademarked.
Not all slogans are memorable or effective, and the art of crafting a great slogan is one that takes time and patients. In order for slogans to work, they usually need to be short, use simple language and truly relate to the product they’re marketing.
If your business has a unique advantage that your competitors can’t match, a great corporate culture that’s the envy of your industry or a cool selling point that your target market should know about, a slogan is a great way to promote it.
Slogans are one of the most important aspects of branding, defining your company or product’s culture in the collective mind of the public. Learn how to create a great brand for your company with the Secrets of Successful Brand Building.
Celebrity endorsements and company spokespeople were a stable of 20th century marketing, particularly during the Golden Age of Hollywood, where the power of celebrity was truly incredible for marketing new products.
Even today, celebrity endorsements and company spokespeople are used to great effect by many brands. In fact, popular products – such as the well-known George Foreman Grill – have been built purely on the power of celebrity.
Other well-known modern spokespeople include William Shatner, whose role in commercials for online flight and hotel booking company Priceline has made him the public face of the company, and Michael Jordan’s well-known work for Nike.
While hiring a celebrity to promote your product isn’t a cost-effective strategy for startups and small businesses, it’s a great way for large companies to capitalize on the popularity of a celebrity and transfer it to their products, services and brand.
Without the right strategy, even an A-list celebrity endorsement can be ineffective – such as Microsoft’s terrible Windows ads starring Jerry Seinfeld. Learn the secrets of preparing a marketing strategy that works in our Marketing Strategy course.
Whether you run a small consultancy firm or a large company, testimonials can be a powerful persuasive asset for your advertising. Once a staple of vintage advertising, testimonials are still frequently used by small businesses and direct marketers.
The power of testimonials lies in their ability to connect your product or service’s value with your target audience. When a prospective customer reads a testimonial from someone like them, it makes them confident that your product can help them.
Because of this, it’s important to use testimonials that reflect the type of customers your business wants to attract, instead of simply using testimonials from the type of customers you’re already attracting.
Testimonials are best used on landing pages, in display advertisements and in print media, particularly when your goal is to inspire direct action. Good testimonials act in support of your marketing message by reinforcing your key value statement.
Would you like to use testimonials in your marketing? Learn how to ask your clients and customers for testimonials and get glowing feedback, as well as plenty of other small business marketing tips, in our Small Business Marketing Basics course.
Learn more about using vintage advertising techniques today
While today’s marketing platforms, such as search engines and social media, may be different from the mass marketing platforms of the 20th century, the strategies used in successful advertising campaigns haven’t changed as much as you might think.
Learn more about using vintage advertising techniques in your modern marketing campaigns in our blog post on the different types of advertising used today and our guide to the most effective advertisement techniques.