The big dreamers behind small space ads. You gotta love ’em.

February 15, 2010


Someone’s DNA to watch over you!

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?

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5 Responses to “The big dreamers behind small space ads. You gotta love ’em.”

  1. This is general, but advertising is about tailoring one’s ads to the content of the publisher. A sexual pillow chair does well in Penthouse, but not so well in Home & Garden. For my site a comedy film does not suit my layout and even if someone wanted to advertise their comedy film on my site – no. Ads need to compliment the material and vice-versa.

    Thanks for ordering The Happy Soul Industry through my Amazon account.

    TTYL,
    Mike

    • SRP said

      Mike-
      Thanks for reading and commenting. Not sure about last comment…Why would I order my own book through your account?! Fill me in.
      FYI Horror fans-
      This guy runs a balls to the wall blog called ’28 days Later: an analysis.’Sorry about no link. Find it!

  2. Hi Steffan,

    I’ve been tearing through my backup discs trying to find a small space ad that’s particularly relevant to some of your observations. Here’s the story: I was at a garage sale a few years ago and spotted a stack of Popular Mechanics magazines in a box. The mags were about 15 to 30 years old at the time and some of the cover stories gave me a chuckle. Things like, “VHS or BETA. Which is best?” and “How to get the most our of your 8-track tape player.” I bought the lot and stacked them in the bathroom for about a year. One day, while enjoying some quality reading time in the john I happened across a 1/4 page ad for an Apple computer kit. I thought, “Wow. There’s where it all began.” As I read the body copy the hair stood up on the back of my neck. I confirmed my suspicions later when I discovered that Steve Jobs had written the copy for this little ad. In it he essentially defined the brand platform and philosophy that guides apple to this day. This back in the day when he and Steve Wozniak were still working out of Wozniak’s dad’s garage. I scanned it and used it in a presentation called “Brand platforms”, but alas, both the scan and the presentation are long erased from my hard drive and currently lost in a sea of old floppy discs buried somewhere in my basement. My wife of course threw out those old “musty” magazines but I remember that moment. There’s a real story here with the way that small companies and small startup brands naively and insightfully define their brand future in a way that’s both intuitive and personal. It’s made me start to search for other small-space ads for today’s successful brands to see how they got it right from the beginning and how that’s had so much to do with their long-term success. I’ll pass along what I find. Then again, maybe that’s what your book is all about so maybe I should wait for it to show up and read it before I get ahead of myself…. See More
    Steve

    • SRP said

      How cool is that?
      I’d thought those early Apple ads were an urban myth.
      But it makes perfect sense. If anyone has an image of these artifacts please submit it.
      Steffan

  3. Do these electronic cigarettes really feel like the real thing? I watched a video at this website but don’t know what to think. Are there any real smokers out there that aren’t promoting a product that can tell me what you really think?

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