Hi everyone, my name is Sophia. I am an MLIS student from Western University completing my co-op placement at the University of Waterloo’s Special Collections & Archives (SCA) this term. I am incredibly excited to work with the team here at the SCA as a big fan of archives and local history in the Region of Waterloo.
During the various stages of lockdown, I found myself gravitating toward a show I could watch. I ended up watching Mad Men. There’s something about the drama, business, and fashion choices of those marketing professionals at Sterling-Cooper that captures my attention. As I watched Mad Men on a streaming platform, I did note the irony of watching a show about advertising straight through with no commercials to break up the episode segments.
Watching the employees of Sterling-Cooper pitch and launch advertising campaigns, I realized I had an odd nostalgia for the days commercials and ads would break up my viewing experience. Whether we like it or not, most of us can recall a catchy jingle or iconic visual from some advertisement of our past.
Advertisements from the past have always interested me (and sometimes shocked me) when I encounter them. The fascination could lie with the strange thoughts companies once held about the consumers they were trying to sell to. Some advertisements are looked upon with interest or nostalgia, and some are recognized as highly problematic today. Ads were designed to be captivating to their audiences, and I think that only increases as time passes. Intentions and imagery can seem surreal years later.
It’s interesting seeing popular trends represented in ads, it can tell you many things about the time period the product was made in. Whether it be fashion trends, societal expectations, or values, advertisements can communicate a lot through the images and wording they equip to persuade consumers. Going through the SCA’s collections, I have encountered many interesting advertisements this term. I thought I would share some below.
Bendix Automatic Home Laundry, ca. 1946
This brochure from the Women’s domestic work advertisements collection comes from Bendix. Bendix was an American company that produced several items, including one of the early automatic washing machines for domestic use. The brochure advertises its automatic home laundry product around the time of the Second World War. The ad details the steps the machine takes to complete the laundry process previously completed mostly by hand. I bet it makes you grateful for your own machine!
Besides the technological aspect, the brochure is interesting for its choice to market to women with various roles. During this period, women were taking on jobs and tasks previously unavailable to them in large numbers due to gaps in the workforce as men went off to war. The decision to market toward women with different jobs demonstrates an acknowledgement of a growing demographic that altered societal expectations and norms during this era.
Seagram’s V. O., 198-
In 1857, William Hespeler and George Randall established the Granite Mills and Waterloo Distillery. A few years later in 1864, a local bookkeeper and manager in the local milling industry named Joseph Emm Seagram was hired to supervise Hespeler’s interest in the company. Seagram went on to buy out Hespeler, Randall, and Roos over the years until he was the sole owner of the company in 1883. After being acquired by the Bronfman family in 1928, Seagram's grew in noteriety as it became a popular choice during the prohibition era. Seagram's developed a strong brand to sell its products that lives on today.
Created in 1913 to celebrate the marriage of Thomas Seagram, Seagram’s V.O. was one of the many beverages created and marketed by the company. The advertisement above is one of several in the Seagram collection promoting V.O. as a popular and worldly Canadian beverage in the 1980s. As a product still on the market today, the V.O. has been marketed numerous ways over generations. Take a look at the Seagram collection to trace the brand legacy of one of Canada's famous distilleries.
Kaufman Foamtreads, 1984
Kaufman Rubber Co. was founded in Berlin (now Kitchener) by Jacob Ratz Kaufman in 1907. In its early years, the company began producing rubber footwear. After Kaufman’s death in 1920, his son A.R. Kaufman became the president, a position he held until 1964. Eventually, the company moved to manufacturing various types of footwear outside of its solely rubber origins. As their line of footwear expanded, so did their marketing efforts! The Kaufman Footwear fonds houses several great advertisements from the company’s past.
The featured ad above portrays the popular Foamtreads, a slipper manufactured by the company beginning in 1953. The company continued manufacturing several shoe brands until it declared bankruptcy in 2000. The Sorel boot, another Kaufman product, was acquired by Columbia Sportswear and lives on today. For more about fun Kaufman Footwear ads, check out the Stranger Shoes blog post!