Historical Ads

Sticky Notes Advertisement Analysis

My historical object of choice was the sticky note. Specifically, I focused on 3M’s Post-it products. The concept of a sticky note is relatively modern, as it was invented only in the late 1970’s. The adhesive that makes sticky notes stick was actually an accidental invention; a failed attempt at making powerful glue. Sticky notes were therefore challenging to market, as they were not created out of need, but rather as a consequence of another project. The 3M company struggled to sell the adhesive, and consequentially Post-it notes, at first; they had to use advertisements to teach people how to use sticky notes and convince them that they were a product that they didn’t know they needed.

The first Post-it note ad I studied was published in 1979 in The Los Angeles Times. It is unique in the sense that it covers three full pages to discuss nothing but sticky notes, a seemingly basic and self-explanatory concept. The ad explains to readers what a sticky note is, and gives examples of how they can be used. It aims to convince the reader/ viewer that their lives would be simplified if they used sticky notes. In my opinion, this ad is geared towards older professionals. It emphasizes the many uses for sticky notes in the office space, especially those for a secretary or typist. The ad includes a note from Sue reminding Al to return her call and as well as a sketch of a woman’s hands applying Post-it note typing tape to a document. This suggests that while the ad is geared towards businessmen who order and buy the office supplies for their workspace, Post-it notes are more likely to be used by women, who often play the supporting role in the office, as typists or assistants or secretaries. The word choice and style of writing in the Post-it ad adds pathos, as it works to excite the reader about the product. Some key phrases include, “A giant communication breakthrough,” “Little pieces of paper that look dull but have an exciting kind of adhesive on the back,” and “If you are not yet overwhelmed by the implications…”. Overall, this ad suggests that society revolves around work and productivity.

The second ad I studied was published in 1985 in Nation’s Business. It shows a montage of eight geometric traffic signs, followed by a square post-it note. Beneath these images, in bold, capital letters reads, “YELLOW IS A SIGN OF IMPORTANCE.” I can only assume that in the original version of this ad, the sticky note, as well as traffic signs, were yellow. Just like traffic signs, sticky notes are meant to catch someone’s attention. While this was stated explicitly in the first ad, it is more implied in the second. The ad is very eye catching and geometric. It is made up of mostly images, with only a small blurb of text at the bottom, which explains what a sticky note is, how to use them, and where to get them. This ad is also geared towards the business world as it explicitly states, “…people with important business messages use our Post-it Notes adhesive note pads.” This is an example of ethos –it suggests to the viewer that if important businessmen and women are using sticky notes, then they should too.

The last ad I examined is much more modern – it was published in 1995 in The Wall Street Journal. It shows triplet babies lying on their stomachs with sticky note nametags stuck to their diapers. People are sympathetic to babies as well as humor, making this ad full of pathos. This ad is attention grabbing because it features triplets, which were much less common in the 1990’s than they are today with artificial fertilization technologies. It suggests that sticky notes can be used to simplify your life in many different ways, from labeling your babies’ bottles to labeling your children themselves. The ad is also stock full of ethos, as it includes numerical statistics and phrases such as, “3M innovation has created… trusted brands, such as Scotch, Thinsulate, and Scotch-Brite.” The ad suggests a society where people live hectic lives and need simplification tools, such as sticky notes, to maintain some sense of organization and sanity.

While each ad was created in a different decade and uses different marketing techniques, they share several things in common. All three ads include the company logo large and bold- this adds to the product’s credibility, or ethos. Also, all three ads offer free samples of Post-it Note products. This is a wise marketing technique as it gives potential customers an opportunity to try the product without any risk, and hopefully get hooked. All three ads argue that Post-it notes are tools for making one’s life more productive and efficient, and that Post-it notes are attention grabbing and will help organize your life. These ads all assume that society values productivity, organization, and work.

Works Cited:

Display ad 100 — no title. (1979, Mar 29). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/158853664?accountid=10747

Advertisement 13 — no title. (1985, 06). Nation’s Business (Pre-1986), 73, 1. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/231704027?accountid=10747

Display ad 9 — no title. (1995, Dec 29). Wall Street Journal (1923 – Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1023832304?accountid=10747


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