Historical Advertising Study


First ad: http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/oaaaslidelibrary_SLA0890/

Second ad: http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/oaaaslidelibrary_SLA1234/

Third ad: http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/oaaaarchives_AAA6240/

For my object, computer, I found three ads on Duke University Collections. I would like to firstly analyze the advertisements separately and then compare them to one another.

As far as I am concerned, in order to analyze an advertisement, it’s significant to consider the circumstance in which this ad is used. For the first image, the tall and giant ad board usually appears on sides of freeways. In the image there’s an innocent-looking baby with his hand on the keyboard of an Apple IIc. Next to the computer is its box with a colorful image on it, which at first sight appears to be some kind of Lego toys. And on the left of the image writes “The Present For His Future”. For me this image is creepy because I grow up witnessing kids messing with toy bricks and dolls. And this picture generates a weird implication that a newly born baby understands how to operate a computer. But the picture is actually prophetic for that time, considering the fact that a large number of kids nowadays are obsessed with ipad games. As for the target customers, I think this advertisement focuses on attracting middle-aged parents and little kids themselves. And it’s a good idea to set this board on freeways because a big proportion of drivers are middle-aged people, and thus the company would very likely receive attention from most of its target audiences. Furthermore, if those parents’ kids happen to be in the car and see the image in which someone at their ages play computer, they would probably demand one for themselves. And since the product is Apple IIc, I assume the target customers are at least of middle class and possess passion for novel technologies. As for the logos, there’s no obvious visual hierarchy path for this ad because the sentence and the image each occupies approximately equal space. However, the red color of the characters on the left might attract people at first (in this case parents instead of kids), and since parents care about their children’s future, they would move their eyes to the right and observe the image. But the color red does nothing to kids because they are naturally more curious about pictures, and hence children might look directly at the image. The most successful element of this ad is its pathos. It arouses resonance among its target audiences by relating computers to babies. The background color blue communicates a sense of future.

In the second image there exists a visual hierarchy path. The picture enlarges from left to right, directing people’s attention to the teenage girl studying in front of the computer, which might seem novel back in 1985, and thus causing curious people to move their sights to the words on the left, which explains that computers should be introduced into school educational system. Though nowadays computers are everywhere in schools and the one in the ad appears to be even outdated, it’s not difficult to imagine that computers were hardly seen in schools back then. And I assume that the target customers of this ad is people related to education, including students, professors, school faculties, experts of education, etc. The highlight of this ad is comparing computers to the ‘new kid’ in schools, which is accurate and creative. But I think this ad will be more appealing if the company converts the picture into another one that explicitly shows the advantage of having computers in schools. To achieve this goal, it will be better to show teenagers’ smiling faces and the amazing things they are able to do with computer, such as watching online presentations, doing online researches, etc.

The third ad, like the first one, also exploits large ad board on freeways. But it also differs from the previous ones in that it focuses more on information (words) instead of attraction (emphasizing on images). This is confirmed by its visual hierarchy, which leads people directly to the characters. Also the small picture in the ad seems random and does not show explicit connection to the words. For the logos of this advertisement, I agree with its distribution of space for image and words, because the essential goal of this company is to provide detailed information to customers who are interested. But it will be better to delete the picture or replace it by another one. At present the picture serves no purpose but to disturb attention, and thus if the company insists on inserting an image, it should select one that is more interesting and more related to the text section.

From a more holistic viewpoint, these three ads share some common denominators, but also differ from one another. Each of these three ads targets a certain customer base and is designed to attract that crowd to the maximum possible extent. Companies distribute these ads’ pictures and characters according to their needs. The first two ads emphasize more on pictures comparing to the third one, but they use different approaches to achieve this goal. The first one exploits color contrast, while the second one uses enlargement. Also the first two ads are concerned with younger populations. On the other hand, while the last two ads give different apportion of space to their pictures and words, the first ad distribute the two elements evenly. And while the first ad does a great job on choosing the picture, the last two ads need to select their images more prudently.

Finally, imagining that I know nothing about that time period and could only infer basing on these three ads: Looking at the rather old-fashioned styles of computers that appear on the ads and people’s attitudes toward it, I could conjecture that at that time computers were not widely used in daily lives and people were just beginning to embrace the invention of some advanced computers. Additionally, since Apple IIc shows up on one of the ads, it might had already been a while since computers were first introduced to the society. So presumably during those years most people had basic knowledge about computers. And as relative technology was updating rapidly, some people were aware of the valuable potential of computers, and they hoped that by introducing computers into ordinary families and schools, the human society would receive even more benefits. Furthermore, these advertisements reveal that some companies had already perceived optimistic business opportunities of promoting and selling computers.

Work Cited List

  1. Foster&Kleiser. [The Present For His Future]. Advertisement. 1985. Duke University Collections. Web. 30 Nov. 2014
  2. [Jefferson Country Education Needs the New Kid in School]. Advertisement. 1985. Duke University Collections. Web. 30 Nov. 2014
  3. Foster&Kleiser. [Computer Power; Computerland for Business, Home and Education]. Advertisement. 1980. Duke University Collections. Web. 30. Nov. 2014

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