Monday, January 07, 2008

Attracting Reader Attention, 50's Style

"Men are rarely interested in an advertisement which they think is meant for women."

"Usually men will look at ads in which a man (and/or dog) is prominent."

"But if the man is shown in a domestic setting with a woman and domestic accessories, man-noting falls off."

These are only a few of the observations presented by Mark Wiseman, "Advertising Consultant and Director of Mark Wiseman's Advertising Courses" in an article from the March 1952 issue of Art Director and Studio News.

At first reading, I found this 50-year old article sort of amusing... even kind of hilarious at times:

"In a woman's ad, for example," writes Wiseman, "don't use pictures of combat or adventure; don't use diagrams unless they are very simple and easy to understand."

Yikes! Please remember ladies, Mark Wiseman wrote that - not me. But on greater reflection, it occurred to me that there was a lot of accuracy in much of Wiseman's advice - certainly for the times - and maybe even for today.

This week, let's take a look at how advertisers targeted their audience back in the 1950's... and if you are able, step out of yourself and look objectively at the ads above ...and ask yourself if things have really changed.


  1. My old friend Gordon Brusstar illustrated the chain saw ad, and he was the ideal guy to do the job... a tan, healthy looking, outdoors kind of guy. He would know how to use that chain saw and, in fact used one to cut unwanted trees on his wooded country property. I think adverting has always been, and continues to be directed to whom is most likely going to purchase the product. I can't see a guy asking his wife to go to the hardware store and pick out the right chain saw for the right job... well, certainly not in the 1950's. But Leif brings up an interesting point, for the most part I think guys still buy guy things and women still buy women's things... or day I say that today?

    Tom Watson

  2. Anonymous6:39 PM

    We live in a gendered world, for sure. But what if, in an alternate universe, manufacturers of, say, chain saws, decided to market to women, or Cosco decided to market their rolling trays to men. Given enough media saturation, maybe gender roles would have loosened up a bit.

    We get so much gender education from ads. It's not just ads imitating life, but life imitating ads. Probably more so, actually.

  3. Tom; Thanks for ID-ing the Brusstar illo. I had a feeling it was a west coast illustrator...

    To both you and Liza, I'll be interested to hear what you think as this week progresses and we look at more images as they relate to (or contradict) Mr. Wiseman's article.

  4. Tom, you need some sensitivity training. :-)

  5. Barbara Bradley asked me to post this comment on her behalf:

    They didn't change very much in the next decade either. In the mid sixties, I did two versions of a job for a major beer company that were to run in the Pacific Northwest. It was an illustration for a Point-of-Purchase display that featured dancers doing the twist. I was instructed in both versions to show a good looking hunk-type man wearing a plaid shirt. In the Washington State version, he had a partner. I was specifically instructed to give her a generous bosom.

    In the Oregon version, he danced alone. I was told that state law forbad showing women in beer ads. I don't know if that was true of not but the hunk danced alone. The jobs were fun and it paid well. I had nor have either original or reproduction. Illustrators rights were few in those days and mostly, we didn't care.

  6. Hi Leif, would have mailed you directly, but not having your private e-mail, figured to post this here.
    Were you aware that back on 12 Dec. we lost one of the grandest pulp painters who ever picked up a brush,
    artist Robert Harris. He did tons of western covers and even a few for Doc Savage before moving on to illustrating women's magazines. Google his name and see what you find.