Truly "Super" Ads

Well, we got through another "Super Sunday" this past weekend, when millions of viewers watched the biggest football game of the year looking passionately at....the wave of new advertisements that seem to surpass the actual game in terms of interest. Every year, we're entertained (if not really informed) by new spots for our favorite beverages, snacks, cars, hotels, services, and sometimes really weird stuff. And occasionally we get to see some big time stars and personalities shilling one product or another. New technologies have allowed sheep, dogs, and bears to take the lead in many promotions.

All well and good, but you might want to check out the print media advertising which filled many of the pages in popular magazines from the late 1800's through the 1950's for some truly 'super' pitches. The only special effects in these masterpieces consisted of terrific artwork, memorable tag lines, and outstanding designs. These were the ads that made many of these products into iconic brands that still exist today.

I fell in love with vintage print advertising in the early 1980's, when my wife and I moved to northern Virginia. We discovered that framed ads promoting beer, Coke, cars, and cigarettes were all the rage back then, and saw them displayed at many of the restaurants and bars from Charlottesburg to Washington. Soon our first apartment was adorned with a number of these colorful works of art.

My interest in these ads continued to grow over the years, and now our store collection of several hundred framed and unframed ads remains extremely popular with customers young and old. Whether it's a car ad from the early 1900's, a vintage Coca Cola shot from the 1930's, or any one of the early product ads featuring long gone brands, there seems to always be something that appeals to everyone. And talk about star power--there's Lucille Ball, Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant and Robert Young plugging cigarettes, Scarlett O'Hara pushing cosmetics, and, yes, Gregory Peck touting the taste of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer.

Beer advertisements became extremely popular after the end of WW II, and the major beer brands of the time (PBR, Schlitz, Ballantine) along with a host of smaller brands created some memorable and eye-catching ads. Among my personal favorites are the "Beer Belongs" promotions, an ad campaign which ran from 1945 through 1956. It's hard to imagine now that the beer industry actually needed this promotion to tell people that 'it's ok to drink beer. Really!' Young adults really enjoy these ads, and I must confess that a number of local area college students have PBR and Shlitz ads hanging in their dorms after having visited our sales.

So, after this year's Super Bowl ads have run their course, take a look at the vintage advertising from the last century for some truly timeless promotions that still make for some unique and colorful artwork and decorations.

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