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Vintage Holiday Advertising

DATE PUBLISHED: December 24, 2014

christmas-316447_640There aren't many things that most customers can agree on, but vintage stuff is one of them. Just turn on your television. You'll see Prohibition-era themed ads for beer, classic cars, and brands of all shapes and sizes trying to capitalize on the "Mad Men" aesthetic. In short, retro works. So why not embrace vintage images for your holiday advertising?


Now we admit, this approach may not be for everyone. A hedge fund may rightfully think that a fun, retro ad may cheapen their brand. That's their prerogative. But most brands will immediately see the value in vintage holiday advertising: it's fun, endearing, and triggers a feeling of nostalgia in the customer. Furthermore, as we'll soon see, vintage ads also give brands the opportunity to make fun of these "simpler times," which is always fun as well.


The good news is that a simple Google search will instantly reveal dozens of cool vintage ads. Our search term was "images of old holiday ads," and it produced this. It's a page showing 30 vintage and retro ads of yesterday — and they're all winners. So how can advertisers take these ads and put a unique twist on them to appeal to customers? Here are some ideas.



Appeal to nostalgia. This is where having a deep understanding of your buyer personas comes into play. Children of the 80s, for example, are a huge demographic, and those of us who lived through the Reagan era can't get enough of things like Pac-Man, "Purple Rain," and "Family Ties" (the television show, for those of you under 30). The first ad in this aforementioned page really hits the mark. It's an old Christmas ad for Atari products. The ad is directed towards children. It says, "How to make sure you don't get 5 pairs of underwear for Christmas." Below that, "Fill in this checklist, tear it out and give it to your parents." Cute stuff. With a little graphic design savvy, you can replace the "Atari 5200 Super-System" with your product. You can also add copy to the effect of, "It's better than underwear — but probably not as good as an Atari TRAK-BALL Controller."




Make fun of outdated societal norms. As fans of "MadMen" will attest, women didn't have it too good back in the late 50s and early 60s. Their career options werelimited and most ads spoke to women — specifically housewives — in a patronizing tone. Case in point, this GE ad for a vacuum cleaner. It basically says, "If you cater to your husband and play your cards right, you'll be rewarded with a new, amazing vacuum cleaner." If your buyer personas consist of working women, they'll appreciate this. Post the ad on Facebook and sarcastically ask, "Remember the old days when well-behavedhousewives wouldget a brand new vacuum from Santa?"




Remind customers how far we've come. As recently as 30 years ago, your doctor would be smoking a cigarette while you sat in his office. Fortunately we've made some progress in the last 40 years, as evidenced by this ad for Lucky Strikes, which shows a man happily and leisurely smoking his cigarette. The ad almost makes smoking seem healthy.





One last thing. View these vintage ads less as a way to get customers to immediately purchase a product, and more as a way to promote your brand by getting followers to share the images on social media. All of these ads are very cool and incredibly shareable. By posting them on Facebook or Twitter, your followers will inevitably share them and in the process, expand your brand's reach. 


Now we'd like your feedback. Has your firm experimented with vintage customer ads? How can these types of ads grow your brand? 


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