Friday, October 1, 2010

museum of advertising history

Hey, today is Follow a Library day on twitter (who knew?) The library I'm following is no ordinary library. It's a little-known treasure trove within Duke University's Rare Books Library, home to the largest collection of ad artifacts in the world.

The Center's director Jacqueline Reid kindly led Ad Age podcaster Bob "Beancast" Knorpp and me on a tour this week and we were both amazed by breadth and depth of the collection. (Bob was so impressed, he did an impromptu podcast, available here with a timelier post of his thoughts.)

The John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History contains 2 miles of shelving on which are stored reels for nearly 8800 commercials dating back to the 50s, print ads, billboards, radio tapes and even the paper trails leading up to their production: call reports, strategy statements, research, even media plans. Artifacts aren't only saved, they're preserved: indexed and organized so they're easily retrievable, a far better system than keeping agency materials in storage houses. The Center began when JWT donated its archives in 1992. Since then other agencies have followed and the Center still accepts materials from ad agencies seeking the best way to preserve their collections.

We were treated to an incredible array of adifacts redolent of 60s culture and values, including a 1968 billboard "Beautify America, Get a Haircut", a print ad for Topper Toys which promised that your daughter won't turn into a hippie if you'll buy her an Easy Bake Oven and a newspaper article announcing LBJ's decision to employ the "new glamor girl of the ad industry", "pretty" Mary Wells to polish his image.

Equally fascinating were ad-related items like a DeBeers memo dated 1961 titled "Sportswear and Its Effect on the Precious Jewelry Market" in which a researcher deplored the cultural shift to more casual fashions: Women don't wear diamonds with tweeds! Diamond Industry in a Panic!

Focus group materials for Ballantine beer: Among posters portraying a woman wearing a hat, which do you prefer: women wearing large hats, or women wearing small hats?

A 1963 in-house pamphlet from JWT titled, "Advertising, A Career for Women" encouraged women to become copywriters, after putting in time as a secretary, of course. Could Mad Men's representation of Peggy Olson as lone copywriter be skewed? The Center's director thinks so. She claims, "The role of women in advertising agencies historically has been stronger than has been shown in Mad Men." She offers photo proof in this video. See what you think.


Howie said...

You are so good at giving your time to groom up and comers. Between the writers workshop and now this trip to Duke very impressed Helen. I came from the most chauvinist male dominated B2B industries (oil refining, military, aerospace, waste management, automotive, power generation are examples), it was so refreshing to come to Advertising and make Sales presentations at some Agencies and see more than half †he attendees female.

Always enjoy the sharing of history since I came into this industry knowing zero of it. In fact until I got into Twitter (summer 09) for networking I was clueless and only knew the media buying firms and the business/wall street side of the conglomerates from reading Business Week or Financial Statements!

Grasshopper is thankful.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

Thanks for kind words, Howie. Honestly I find every time I get up in front of a class I learn as much as I teach. Interesting move you made from one industry to another. Don't let audience ratios fool you, though. True measure of state is in ratio in boardrooms.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the virtual tour of Duke. I'd wondered about it and how lucky for me that you were there. Where do you teach? And what?