February 15, 2010
Back when my father was starting out as a copywriter, he had this idea for a men’s fragrance called Cash Cologne. I kid you not. Its theme: “Wear Cash and you’ll smell like a million bucks” …or something like that. There was no client or product attached to the concept. He and a buddy had come up with the idea while shooting the shit one day. I believe they’d gotten as far as contacting a perfume manufacturer before the whole thing fell through. Had they continued the next step would have been obvious: a small-space ad in the back of a magazine. Which brings me to the topic of this article…
The last few pages of many national magazines –including high quality pubs like Dwell and Esquire- contain small space ads that are, by turns, ridiculous, naïve and totally cool. Here is the last bastion of old-school American dreamers. They make art from your favorite photographs or shock-absorbing mats to put in front of your stove. Guys like Photowow and Gelpro These are folks who woke up one day with an idea, sunk their nest eggs into it, and then took out an ad.
No bigger than a pack of cigarettes, these ads usually feature a photo, a small paragraph and a website/800 number. No fuss, no muss. They offer little in the way of concept or art direction. Often produced by the publisher via template, they are extremely utilitarian. Even the “roommate wanted” ads in college dorms are more complicated.
From pillow-chairs that enable creative sexual coupling (yowza!) to handmade mailboxes from New England, these tiny adverts offer a great window into the entrepreneurial nature of Man. Inventors and pioneers built this country. Some of them probably started out in ‘small spaces’ like these.
Next time your thumbing through a magazine, take a look in the back. See what they’re selling. I bet you secretly crave at least some of it. Who doesn’t want “modular rugs for (your) stairs” or “beautiful canvas art pieces…made from your favorite photographs?” My personal favorite: wall-sized paintings based on (your) actual DNA. “It’s art as unique as you are!” How cool is that?