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The Reel Deals

People buy, collect, and display vintage magazine and print advertisements for a variety of reasons. Some folks appreciate the sometimes spectacular artistry and use them as home and office decorations. Others collect around a particular theme such as vintage automobiles, home products, music and pop culture favorites, and many of my customers have chosen them as unique gifts for family and friends. Millenials and college students love the vintage beer and beverage ads, keeping PBR and Shultz alive and well in the 21st century. Sometimes, just seeing an old ad or product brings back some long forgotten memory.

Personally I've always been intrigued by celebrity endorsements. Marketing experts have long touted the benefits of having well-known public personalities hawk products to the masses; it's a method that has probably gone on for centuries ("Hi, Chris Columbus here, reminding you to make Genoa Ships your first choice in watercraft"). What really amazes me about the print ads of the 1940's and '50's was the absolute breadth of stars and celebrities who comfortably and shamelessly touted a wide variety of products during this period. Here's a small sampling:

The advertising during the war featured an array of big-name stars pushing both products and national pride. The products were almost irrelevant, as the stars of the time took the limelight in endorsing anything from skin cream and mints to soft drinks and war bonds. Hey, if its good enough for John Wayne, it's great for us. And who knew that Veronica Lake was into birdseed?

During this period, the tobacco industry used many big time stars to promote its products. Remember, smoking was really cool back then and no one was thinking lung cancer, especially not Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, and the cast of Gunsmoke (the title itself could have been an unconscious promo for cigarettes).

Most of the tobacco ads initially featured men, but the big brands also featured the starlets of the era to remind women that smoking was great for them too!

Of course, movie and TV stars extolled glamour, and nothing sold a beauty product like a gorgeous star. Luster Cream featured an array of 'mature' beauties. (Quick--how many of these Hollywood starlets can you name at first sight?)

Comedians also proved to be popular pitchmen, although one wonders just how successful these campaigns really were.

And how about using the most interesting man in the world? No, not that Dos Equis guy, but none other than Ernest Hemingway touting Ballantine Ale.

While beer companies typically utilized thematic ads with wonderful scenery to promote their brands, occasionally they included a Hollywood star or two to help out.....even if the star and the brand had nothing in common.

At times, ads seemed to miss their mark, with either 'creepy' celebrities with everyday products or well-know stars with weird products. Can you imagine Fred and Ethel in that outfit?

Hedy Lamar and Scarlett O'Hara ads

The ads of this era were many times works of art--and with some creative framing, they make for some terrific and unique displays. The good news is that Picture This Antiques has dozens of framed ads as well as several hundred unframed ads available at our upcoming spring and summer sales (yes folks, that was my shameless plug!).

Answer to the Luster Cream ads: Jane Powell, Ava Gardner, Kathryn Grayson, Jeanne Crain, and Jane Wyman.

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