What makes an ad look old?

I was leafing through Penthouse while getting my hair cut and…

Wait. It’s not what you think. It was the April 1974 issue of Penthouse, part of a big moldy stack my trendy barbershop found and keeps on hand. As a sociological artifact it was fascinating, on a lot of counts, most of which are not appropriate to discuss in a family blog.

Being the focused adman I am, I skipped right by Miss April, the Penthouse Forum and other appeals to my baser instincts, and focused on the ads. They seemed older–far older–than their 35 years, and I tried to figure out why. One obvious reason is that most of them were for cigarettes, but cigarette advertising wasn’t banned until relatively recently, so that wasn’t it.

There was the grainy, dirty quality of the photo reproduction–but now that look is slavishly recreated for its retro appeal. Ditto the haircuts and outfits (and ‘staches on the guys).

ThenI realized what it was that dated those ads as surely as carbon dates rock: the typography.

Windsor. Remember Windsor? Sam Scali used it for Perdue then everybody got on board.
And Avant Garde. Lots of Avant Garde Extra Bold. Which now looks very not avant garde. And everything tracked super-tight so all the letters touched and the kerned characters got so intertwined they were almost x-rated.

I stared at that type and got a whiff of antiquity. Which is ironic because a few weeks before, I had been in Rome and while walking through the Coliseum, I had admired all the, um, Roman type chiseled into the ancient stone and thought, 2000 years later, that it looked remarkably fresh.

One thought on “What makes an ad look old?

  1. Alaina says:

    I feel the same about Playboy, only it is a 2009 issue and I am freaked out by how it looks like it is from the 70s and I am looking for the tobacco advertiser that I placed.


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