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Entries in advertising (17)

Wednesday
Aug102011

Crossing a telephone with a TV set in 1968

In this most gloriously futuristic year of 2011 we somehow find ourselves awash in videophones. In a way, they snuck up on us. And they most certainly didn't show up in the ways that people had been predicting them for decades. The videophone was to change the way we looked at home schoolingjob interviewsmedical diagnostics, and even dating.

One of my favorite examples of videophone predictions is from the 1993 AT&T concept video, Connections. After getting off a plane and meeting her family, a young woman wants to call her fiancee. But rather than reaching for her mobile phone the second the plane lands, she ventures to find the airport's video-payphones. Video-payphones, indeed!

With Skype, iChat, Google Hangouts, Facebook Video Chat, and Facetime, videophone technology is all around us. But most people rarely see the need. That is to say, it's not important to always see the person you're communicating with. I'll video chat with the odd friend or co-worker on occasion, and it's great to see family back in the Midwest on holidays, but more often than not it simply feels unnecessary, even though the technology is so easy and inexpensive.

The 1968 ad below depends on expensive infrastructure that hindered the widespread, pre-internet adoption of videophone technology. Produced for Western Electric, the ad can be found in the book The Golden Age of Advertising: The 60s.

 

Western Electric is crossing a telephone with a TV set.

What you'll use is called, simply enough, a Picturephone set. Someday it will let you see who you are talking to, and let them see you.

The Picturephone set is just one of the communications of the future Western Electric is working on with Bell Telephone Laboratories. Western Electric builds regular phones and equipment for your Bell telephone company. But we also build for the future.

 

 

Sunday
Jul172011

The refrigerator of the future, today! (1959)

We've looked at the multitude of ways that advertisers have used "the future" as a way to position their products as cutting edge or fantastical. Today we have an advertisement from the June 11, 1959 Galveston Daily News in Galveston, Texas.

At first glance, the ad appears to be for refrigerators; showing a child peeking into a fridge while wearing futuristic space clothes. Upon closer inspection we see that while the ad is promoting the benefits of combination refrigerator-freezers, it's actually paid for by the Houston Lighting and Power Company. I really wish I better understood the politics of utility companies from this era, as it would probably help me understand this ad from 1957 as well. (Is that not the most boring sentence you've read today? I'm single, ladies!)

 

 

Thursday
Jul072011

Our Drunken Videophonic Future (1943)

The 2002 Taschen book Future Perfect is kind of like a dead-tree Tumblr; no credits for illustrators, no dates, and no context. I even tried to reblog a page from the book by nailing it to a tree, but my neighbors tore it down. What a bunch of jerks.

With a little old fashioned detective work I was able to figure out that this image in Future Perfect is probably from a 1943 Seagram's Whiskey ad. It reminds me a bit of this job interview conducted across continents. [cue It's A Small World muzak]

Videophone technology has been with us for quite some time, but it's a perfect example of technology that didn't turn out the way that futurists were predicting. When was the last time you got off a plane to look for the video-payphone? So, raise a glass to your favorite transcontinental client, or whatever is supposed to be happening in this drunken, videophonic future of ours.

 

 

Thursday
May122011

Futuristic Products, After the War (1945)

American companies during World War II often stressed sacrifice in their print advertising. If we can all just be patient, they promised, we'll have more televisions and personal helicopters and push-button kitchens than you can shake a rocket car at. 

 

After the war, the sun will power our homes.

After the war, we'll have plastic skyscrapers and frozen dinners.

After the war, life will be streamlined.

 

The June 24, 1945 San Antonio Express ran an article by Associated Press science writer Frank Carey that looked at the futuristic post-war products Americans were being promised. Dissecting a Labor Department report, Carey describes what it would take, with the end of the war, for these products to see the light of day.

I'm most intrigued by the article's optimistic outlook on plastics, "...and years after the war, we may even see automobile bodies made entirely of plastics." However, the report acknowledges that plastic's high price doesn't make it quite yet competitive with steel. Magnesium, plywood, aluminum.. it's fascinating to look at what people of the 1940s thought the future would be built upon.

Carey's entire article is below, but I'll leave you with one word about the future: plastics.

 

Dresses made of aluminum mesh...

Bathtubs made of plywood...

Transparent refrigerators made of plastics...

Automobiles with magnesium engine and body parts...

Such visionary products of the post-war world are either in the design or experimental stage, or they're being talked about as possibilities.

But the extent to which they might come into use depends upon various factors. Not the least is the dollar sign.

Discussion of the post-war outlook for such war-developed materials as polastics, aluminum, magnesium, plywood and synthetic rubber, is contained in a report made by the Department of Labor's bureau of statistics to the Senate subommittee on war mobilization.

The latter group, a brand of the Senate military affairs committee, described the report as "the first comprehensive statement of wartime developments."

The extent to which these new materials will be generally adopted is difficult to foretell," says the report.

"It is apparent that many of them will find larger markets than in the pre-war era period, but it is also virtually certain that not all of the facilities built during the war for the production of these materials will be needed. Comparisons of costs of various materials, which have not been of the greatest signifcance during the war, will again become important when peace returns."

And the report adds:

"The costs of production for these newer materials will be influenced not only by purely economic factors but by many political considerations.

"Of primary importance will be the policies followed in the disposition of government-owned facilities. For some materials, notably synthetic rubber, much will depend on the policies adopted with respect to foreign trade.

"Many of the new materials will compete with each other as well as the older materials for particular uses -- for example, plastics, aluminum, magnesium, and plywood."

The Labor Department's glance into the future was part of a comprehensive study of some 1400 technological developments made in various fields during wartime.

Of plastic, this picture was given:

Special qualities of plastics, such as transparency and resistance to chemical action, will fit them for varied uses in industry, the laboratory and the home. Continued use of plastics for structural parts and other articles in aircraft and automobiles is expected.

And years after the war, we may even see automobile bodies made entirely of plastics.

On the other hand --

"The future of the plastics industry will be governed largely by economic factors," says the report. "The price per pound of most plastics remains higher than that of many materials with which plastics compete.

"Despite the fact that articles of plastics are usually lighter than those of metal and that economies may be affected in fabrication, the price differential between plastics and, for example, steel is so great as to discourage large-scale substitution.

"There nevertheless remains a multitude of applications in which plastics are highly economical, because of special properties not elsewhere attainable or because of great savings in fabrication time and costs.

The report points out that the production of aluminum and magnesium expanded tremendously during wartime and says both materials may come into greater use in the future.

While the annual production of magnesium before 1939 was 4,000,000 pounds, production in 1943 was 368,000,000 pounds and the nation has production capacity for much more.

Indicated uses for aluminum, the report says, are for buses, automobiles, passenger ships and for the manufacture of household appliances, furniture, bicycles and burial caskets. But most uses, it adds, "are contingent upon a suitable adjustment of the price of aluminum relative to that of stainless steel, plastics, magnesium or other competing materials."

Desings have been prepared for automobiles with much aluminum in engine and body, "but the large-scale application of these designs will probably have to await further development of inexpensive mass-production methods of working with the metal."

The outlook for plywood in the post-war world "is promising" says the report, but it, too, will have to cope with competition."

Among possible uses are private airplanes, lightweight box-cars, prefabricated chicken houses and automobile bodies.

 

Thursday
Apr072011

Picnics on Mars in the Year 2012 (1962)

 

 

We've looked at a lot of the ways in which advertisers have positioned themselves as being in touch with "the future." The future's been used to advertise appliance stores, power companies, airlines, phone companies, aluminumTVs, beer and refrigerators, refrigerators, refrigerators; pretty much any consumer product or service you can think of.

By associating their brand with cutting edge design and glamour, advertisers are afforded the leniency of fantasy and fluff while still maintaining some level of respectability. The future is a perfect foil for conservative brands -- even something as boring as an insurance company -- to project fanciful ideas rooted in the long-term thinking expected of them.

The advertisement below is for the insurance company Michigan Mutual Liability and appeared in the September 12, 1962 Record-Eagle (Traverse City, MI). It predicts everything from picnics on Mars to oddly shaped money in 2012, significant for the insurance company as its centennial year.

HAVE A HAPPY TRIP! By 2012 AD, Mars may make a nice site for a family picnic, via your space craft, with a few stops for refreshments at space platforms along the way. Earth's Moon may be the site of our suburbs. Our Sun with an absolute surface temperature of 6000 degrees, is apt to be too warm for a pleasure trip. But Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, Mercury and Venus may be more hospitable, and there are of course, trillions of other planets and suns beyond our Solar System to tempt the space traveler.

This month marks our 50th birthday. While it's fun to look back on our past half century, we think it's even more interesting to look ahead to our next one. And here's what we plan for the year 2012:

Whether "autos" are traveling on "space beams" to other planets, operating beneath oceans, on compressed air, or are radar controlled... we plan to be far ahead in anticipating our policyholders' insurance needs as we have been in the past. (For instance, we started providing auto insurance when horse drawn vehicles were still a relative commonplace. We pioneered in offering motorists discounts that grow larger each accident and claim free year. More recently, we introduced a pay-as-you-drive plan that lets motorists spread costs on a monthly basis.)

Entire communities may be enclosed beneath huge plastic domes providing community-wide air-conditioning in 2012. Or they may float in space... or be underground. Wherever they are, we plan to provide our homeowner policyholders with the greatest amount of financial protection practical, against personal liability, property damage, casualty losses... just as we do now. (We pioneered in combining four major homeowner insurance needs in a single package. And Now -- you can pay for your Homeowners Insurance, with us, on a monthly basis.)

The shape of money may change, but we'll pass on all savings, all economies, to our policyholders in the year 2012... just as we do today. (Michigan Mutual Liability Company, you see, is owned by its policyholders -- operated for their benefit, so they're entitled to the most complete insurance it's practical to provide... at the lowest cost consistent with sound management.)

We plan to continue our growth pattern, too... having already become one of the ten largest companies of our kind since we pioneered with Workmen's Compensation Insurance back in 1912.

Secure your future... Insure with Michigan Mutual

 

Monday
Jan312011

PBR Jetpack Ad (1976)

In 1976 Pabst Blue Ribbon ran this TV ad of a man flying effortlessly with a jetpack.* Though the man we see at the end who takes off his helmet is just an actor, the man who actually flew in the ad was none other than William P. Suitor.

You know how we'll know when we're living in the future? When we finally see public service announcements warning us of the dangers of drunk jetpacking. Until then, just keep chugging hipster juice until your bed feels like a giant spinning hoverboard. Drink your way to the future!

*Technically, it's a rocket belt, but I'll let you nerds fight over that in the comments. Nerds.

 

Previously on Paleofuture:

 

Sunday
Jan302011

Face to Face Phone Calls (1957)

 

In this ad from the March, 1957 issue of Scientific American we see John Q. Businessman making a "face to face" telephone call. The ad declares that thanks to the Hughes Tonotron and other products from the Hughes Aircraft Company people will soon see "on the wall television, electronic control of factory production, and countless other marvels."

Thanks to Brad Fidler for this scan.

 

Previously on Paleofuture: