April 13, 2013

Ads From The Old Days – Part 2: Cookery

In this second post in this series looking back on old magazine ads, we look at these food, drink and cooking-related ads from the mid-1980s. All of these came from two issues of A La Carte, an up-market British cookery and gourmet magazine, one from 1985 and one from 1986.

I found these ads interesting because they had one thing in common. Back then, apparently, ad writers favoured lengthy copy. Sometimes whole pages full of paragraphs. Huge blocks of text for the shoulder-padded public to wade through. Perhaps in the '80s people had more time to peruse lengthy writings about each product. Perhaps ad writers now are just lazy and slap a web address in, figuring the potential customer will find out the product gen in their own time. Both theories have their adherents.

I've arranged the ads below in order from least to most wordy. The word count for each one is given. (Yes, I'm sad enough to count all the words.) Also the photos aren't great. What, you expect me to scan all these?

Only 32 words in this ad for a brandy-like drink but I included it purely for the photo of the couple at the bottom. This is how sophisticated people hooked up in the '80s, kids.

This bacon ad has only 95 words, quite brief for the '80s but still too verbose by today's standards. I only included it because it's worded in such a strange way. Perhaps bacon brought out the copywriter's poetic side?

95 words again, and they're all in French, which is unusual – or maybe the readership were assumed to be bilingual. Hey, it was 28 years ago, what do you want? I like the expression on the woman's face as she listens to Monsieur Beaujolais there bang on about dejeuner. People were more polite in the '80s, too.

With that huge tagline at the top, the paragraph doesn't look much, but it's still 140 words all in. Ah, clean electric power. I wish my stovetop looked like that.

A 'wedding photo album' format gives this ad for falling-down juice some charm. More charm than those who consume the product, at any rate. Only a small paragraph at the top, but the photo captions bump the word count up to 142.

I had to include this close-up of one of those pics above. Saucy stuff, eh? Of course, weddings are boring, but at least you might see things like this once the ordeal's over.

Amidst the rows of teacups the eye has to run the length of this double page spread and back four times to get through this 150-word essay. Is it worth it? Well read the thing and find out!

Now we're into 'more text than images' territory – something that is almost non-existent now. 163 words to get through here.

The photo dwarfs the copy but there's still 166 words about bread here. Hey, I made some bread today. Ain't that somethin'.

The 168 words here take the form of a poem. A unique approach, and this was on the inside cover, but would you read it all? (I did.)

Big pic on the left, 178 words on the right. The whole 'flowers' thing is just odd.

Another one from Cook Electric; 183 words. You do use an electric cooker, right? I hate cooking, so don't ask my opinion.

Ouch, diving into a grapefruit would sting your eyes to buggery. Don't try it. Despite a very eye-catching large image, they crammed 201 words into this one.

Interesting copy, but very long at 233 words. Most of the items being touted here are de rigueur these days. Everyone's got one of those cheese slicer things. I still like it though; there's a certain charm in the way this ad cheerfully extols the virtues of various kitchen utensils. This could also be the only place where the word 'aluminiuming' appeared in print.

As you get through this 316-word essay, try not to get hungry by looking at that cake.

Get comfy, you're up for a 442-word story about tea. I find it interesting, but then I drink tea every day, and don't mind learning about how this company got started. Also, really old photos draw the eye. The one here is from 1902.

And clocking in at a massive 461 words is this ad giving all the info you ever needed about this whisking blender thingy. Everything it does is plainly stated here, if you've got the time to get through it. Can you imagine a print ad with this much text now? No, everyone's too busy playing with themselves to take the time to get clued in on a product they are considering buying. Must distract them with brightly-coloured fluff. Also, iPhones really aren't all that great. Buy a blender instead.