Monday, 20 February 2012

A History of Advertising

We recently received a lecture on a history of advertising. The lecture was based around the success of the Lever Brother's, and their brand 'Sunlight Soap.' The Lever Brothers was foundered by James Darcy and William Hesketh Lever in 1885. Today, the company 'Unilever', which the Lever Brothers are associated with, owns 900 brands (Ben & Jerry's and Bird's Eye to name but a few). William Lever opened a gallery for the public, which was aimed mainly for the use of his workers to draw creative inspiration. 'Port Sunlight' was build round about the time Lever became the first british tycoon.

One of the most revolutionary marketing strategies Lever came up with, was to pre-package soap, an approach which has also been used by John and William Kellogg. Before Lever came along, soap was sold in long bars to grocers, which stamped, sliced-up and sold. Lever's strategy was to advertise his soap extensively, attaching a brand identity with the packaging. His methods were very similar to the ones we see today in advertising.

The newspapers also played a huge role in advertising, As a result of taxes on newspapers being abolished, there was an advertising boom around 1855-1861. A second boom came in the 1880s, when printing technology allowed colour printing and pictorial adds in magazines. By the 1890s, advertisers were able to re-print contemporary paintings to use for their adds. The images used were often of upperclass families washing their china plates, which was fashionable at the time. The people in the paintings were usually wearing flawless white clothing, creating a very aspiration image of cleanliness.

Another key to Lever's success was that he was around in 1851, at the height of the Empire. This meant that international trade routes were established. As a result of this, 'Sunlight Soap' went from a local soap manufacturer to one of the world's first multinationals. By 1930, they were the largest corporation in Britain. Port Sunlight Museum stated in 2009 that: ‘Colourful, innovative advertising was crucial to Lever’s success’ His constant use of contemporary paintings communicated his product. He chose children as a popular subject matter as they represent purity and joy, and possibly as they create emotive undertones, because mothers want to create a clean and hygienic environment for their children to live safely in. Again white linen was used often to show that the product was good for cleaning clothes. He used other emotive techniques. For the 'As Good as New' add, Lever used a painting titled 'A Dress Rehearsal (1888)' by Albert Chevallier Tayler. The painting depicted a peasant family, watching a bride try on a wedding dress, a very cheerful atmosphere in the room. The add appeals to the less wealthy, and implies beauty secrets being passed down through generations as the mother watches proudly over what looks to be her daughter.

What we see through Lever's choice to use contemporary paintings, is an example of creative advertising. His adverts draw in the audience with the interesting and colourful subject matter, also adding an entertaining spectacle. By using slogans, Lever could also manipulate a paintings meaning to sell the product. With the 'Sunlight Soap' product, you were also encouraged to save up vouchers to receive prints of the adverts. Lever was also innovative in the fact he organized events to raise interest and awareness company. When opening new offices on Lake Geneva, he organized a washing competition, to encourage people to sample his product, whilst offering entertainment. The company even reached out to children, including paper dolls in their packaging. In essence he achieved world domination. Some of the marketing methods he used are still seen in advertising today. 'Lynx' still make extreme claims based on hygiene, that by using their product, you will attract the opposite sex. It is this aspiration element that still drives many products today.

There are criticisms however, against what is known as 'Admass.' It has been argued by Lewis that: "People degenerated into drones: docile bodies or blind mouths etc…unable to think beyond free market capitalism." This reflects the idea that people begin to believe everything that is pitched to them, and also this idea that large corporate industries take advantage of the public with their aspirational adds. There is the counter argument however that advertising created jobs, and those who support capitalism believe that consumption 'improves the well being of the population' (Lewis).

In the context of our course, I believe that what the Lever Brothers show is the idea of creative advertising, particularly through collaborative medias. If we think of the use of contemporary art to sell soap product, it is very similar to using say; animation to advertise other products. I found this 'Digicel Pacific TVC' advert, using 3D animation created in 'Maya' and 'Blender.'

Digicel Pacific TVC from Stefan Wernik on Vimeo.

By using 3D animated characters, the advert is quirky and engaging. The message is conveyed with a subtle sense of humour, fitting with the Lever idea that an advert should be entertaining and contain some kind of spectacle for the audience to marvel at. 

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