tl;dr? Oh well! Carry on.
This is the third in a series of posts taking a peek into the March 31, 1972 issue of Life magazine. The advertising is a throwback reminder to the technology available and the social norms of the time.
Parking lot photo booths
In 1972, advertising relied on photography which was analog. A photograph required a camera which required film which required exposure which required a specific shutter speed to capture an image. And while you fiddle with the camera settings, don’t forget to focus.
And then develop the film. A literal dark art, photography required a dark room and tubs of chemicals and time and magic. Instead of an iPhone or Android second, photos on film required a minimum of hours to develop. And I can speak to the disappointment of waiting a whole week for the postal service to deliver packets of blurry overexposed, underexposed, or unfocused photos. It could be a sad end to a long wait.
Polaroid photo exception
Polaroid cut the time to see a photo from hours and days to minutes. When photographic paper layered with chemicals was pulled out of the Polaroid camera, the chemicals were activated and film development would start. After a wait of a few minutes, the photo was extracted by peeling off the mini-darkroom chemical layer. And for posterity, another chemical was swiped across the surface — a darkroom feature kept within reach of mere snap-happy mortals.
Polaroid may have cut photo development time to minutes, but that could still be too long to wait. I remember family reunions where between snaps, grandpas or uncles or cousins or siblings wandered off and there was hollering to get everyone back together for the next family portrait. And then we had to smile. The struggle was real.
And Polaroid photographs are like monoprints – singular, unique. There is no negative to make reprints from.
My visceral reaction to the visual mash-up of a surfer and a Ford Mustang is that it is simple and makes no sense. Why is the surfer hunched over the cars in a King Kong menace? Why are those beautiful cars parked on a beach? They will be wrecked or swept out to sea.
Then on further inspection, this advertisement is, actually, a marvel. Created in an age before digital photography and PhotoShop, it was complicated to match the surfboard stripes to the Mustang stripes, to leave the proper amount of space for the advertising copy, to center the surfboarder, match the auto window glass to the dark water of the wave, and evoke a feeling although I’m not sure what I’m supposed to think or feel. The copy states “A panoramic instrument panel and a floor-mounted stick shift sitting between bucket seats. Now this is the real way to control a car.”
Really? Maybe not park on the beach …
Advertising copy used to provide lots of product information. Consumers presumably would compare products and conclude that the advertised product was more desirable than the competition for any number of reasons, but information was key.
And then the wheel turned and advertisers wised up. Who wants or needs or reads, information? Information is boring. Let’s cut to the chase. How does the product make you feel?
The Hiram Walker Ten High bourbon advertisement is an example that is copy heavy with information overload! I have to read to the end to find I’ll make a friend and I’m cheap. Hmmm, I’m wondering just like the fellow in the photo if it’s even worth it.
And here’s an example using less copy. Product placement. Smoke in the fresh mountain air on a remote lake or come up where ever you are by lighting up. And note, this Life magazine was published nine years before the Surgeon General’s warning was required on cigarette advertisements.
Breakdown of cigarette adverts.
Cigarettes were still advertised in print with relative impunity. Some contained the Surgeon General Warning. Others not. All cigarette advertisements were full page. Men smoking were manly. Women were accompaniments. The exception was Maxine, the masseuse, who rolled-her-own but you’d rather smoke Camel Filters than Maxine’s brand.
- Camel Filters. They’re not for everybody. They suggest that your only alternative would be Maxine’s brand which is local to Maxine and conveniently not available to you.
- KOOL. Come all the way up to KOOL. Just a box of cigarettes levitating on a mountain lake (see photo above).
- Raleigh. Spend a milder moment with Raleigh. Manly man smoking in a meadow with a woman examining a weed? She’s a blond with a headband. The advertisement contained a Surgeon General’s warning.
- Lucky Ten. The first low ‘tar’ cigarette that delivers full flavor. This was the simplest ad. A simple box — do we even know if there are cigarettes in the box? — in red, white, and black. The phrase “Only 10 mg. ‘Tar'” appeared twice.
- LARK. Put some more flavor in your life. Man and woman smoking leisurely over a picnic with a red and white LARK hot-air balloon in the background meadow. The picnic blanket is blue and white like Judy Garland’s dress in The Wizard of Oz and you know it is intentional. Leave Kansas. Visit Oz. Smoke. Smoke LARK.
- Marlboro. No tagline. All feel. Cowboy riding a horse chasing a steer. You are on the move and we know because the background is blurry. Presumably, enjoy a smoke after chasing steers.
- Pall Mall Gold 100’s. Yes, longer yet milder. Close up of a man’s hand with a lit cigarette and gold signet ring … embossed with … the same emblem on the Pall Mall Gold 100’s box also featured in close-up. If you smoke PMGold 100’s, you.are.successfull. And manly.
The number of cigarette ads in the magazine was a reminder that social norms change. I can’t remember the last restaurant I was in that had a dedicated smoking section. If you smoke, we want you to know you shouldn’t, and you can go smoke in isolation. This wasn’t always true.
1972 Pantone Greenery Dodge Dart
My first car ever was a 1973 2-door Dodge Dart, so this image struck near and dear to my heart. My used Dart was $300 with about 50,000 miles. I proceeded to drive it for another 50,000 miles. Mine was not painted 2017 Pantone ‘Greenery’ but it was by far the most economical ride I ever owned.
This has been a
moment blog post to consider Life, the magazine. Issue dated March 31, 1972.