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As Print Fades, Remorse Grows
By: Jeff Louis
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In case you hadn't noticed, print advertising is wasting away, starving from lack of revenue.

The bony spine of magazines and lack of inserts in newspapers displays how thin some have become. It was painful to witness until I remembered dealing with print publications that held me, and the clients I represented, over a barrel, squeezing us for every last dollar.

While buying media early on, I learned the hard way about short rates, inflexible negotiating, and breaking promises. This didn't stem from my dealings with every print vendor, mind you, just some of the more well-known newspapers and publications.

Not all relationships were rocky, but as print costs went up and circulations down, my feelings moved from dislike to disdain. When I became a planner, I did everything I could to lower the print buys and invest in TV, online, and radio.

This wasn't always the case. As a kid, I used to collect "cool" print ads and magazine covers, especially those featuring luxury items and alcohol. I was awed by print ads.

Typography and its subliminally seductive elements and the sheer power of a well-written sentence filled me with joy.

I started college majoring in engineering and ended it with an advertising degree. I was thoroughly inspired by print, and deep down, I still have a deep affinity for print.

While the creative side of me went one way, the media side went another. Truly torn, I am starting to feel a sense of remorse as print publications close, go bankrupt, or transform digitally.

Many print ads are still majestic; however, there aren't really many famous print campaigns anymore. Digital ads are beautiful and dynamic, yet they lack a certain mystique found in print ads -- something you can't quite put your finger on.

The creative department(s) were always coming to me because they knew that I'd swiped the latest copies of Graphis or Communication Arts  simply because I loved the ads. 

Those days are gone, and finding some of the great print ads of yesteryear is hit and miss, due in part to the fact there aren't digital files available to upload. Add that to the fact that some companies linked to famous ad campaigns no longer exist. Even Google has a hard time matching the search terms.

Recently, I accidentally stumbled on to a site called the Vintage Ad Browser (VAB), which launched on Jan. 4, 2010. True to its name, the VAB catalogs old print ads by industry and currently carries over 100,000 images ranging from the 1900s to present day. Hello Nirvana!

VAB is part of Blogoscoped, which describes VAB as a site featuring a gallery of over 100,000 print ads, categorized into tags and years where each is cropped, scanned from books, CD-ROMs (like Marvel’s full run of "Amazing Spider-Man"), Web sites, and more.

The industries covered include alcohol, airlines, milk, beauty, books, celebrities, clothes, soft drinks, movies, entertainment, medicine, and 42 others.

While the history behind every ads is a story, what proves more interesting is watching how trends and stereotypes change over time: clothing styles, the portrayal of  women, and acceptable copy differ from decade to decade. This is not a big surprise, but it proves entertaining nonetheless.

Plus, for those who never used an exacto knife to create an ad layout, the craftsmanship of the vintage ads is amazing. In essence, each older ad is a work of art. 

The man behind Blogoscoped, a site that "contains 80 percent Google," is Philipp Lenssen, a German citizen who lives in China, of all place. He runs a few sites, including VAB, Cover Browser (a site covering comics, books, etc.), Games for the Brain, and Bomomo.

All are intriguing and extremely entertaining, and I highly suggest visiting each. When you do, however, block out some time. You'll need it. 

 



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About the Author

Jeff Louis: Media Planner, Brand Project Manager, blogger, and aspiring writer. Please leave a comment or get in touch with Jeff on Twitter. As always, thank you for reading!

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