If you’re a fan of Mad Men then you already know that suddenly advertising has become a lot more interesting. As the show begins to expose the illusion perpetrated on the American public for decades, so does one start to look differently at the ads themselves. While television commercials nowadays are too obnoxious to stand, those made back in the 1960s are actually entertaining.It is said that one can find everything on the Internet. One recent discovery reveals a great resource called AdViews, which provides access to the thousands of television ads made by the D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles (DMB&B) company from the 1950s to the 1980s. They are digitized and downloadable via iTunes. I know, who’d want to download them all? And how long before someone at YouTube uploads them again to make them easier to watch?One would have to be a bit of an obsessive to download ten or even a hundred of these great ads, like Corn Silk Powder, Ansco Film Cameras, Fluffo Shortening, the American Dental Association, Grape Nuts, Dawn and the “Car of Now!” You don’t have to download them if you watch them via the iTunes store. You simply click on them and they play. You can download the ones you really like…I don’t know, some people collect string.The collection is housed at Duke University’s website and is part of a growing archive online of television programs and advertising. The Internet, it turns out, is the perfect place to store video, especially when they’re short and free. Archival footage accessible from one’s home computer. Imagine that.These ads aren’t for cigarettes, and there aren’t many for booze either, but for one or two (“Don’t Serve the Coffee with the Cream! Harvey’s Bristol Cream.”). Mostly they’re straight up and down exhibits of American domestication. We can learn much from these advertisers, especially in terms of how we see modern commercials, which are far more manipulative and sophisticated.There are other places to find vintage commercials, and all of them are free. YouTube is a wealth of vintage ads. Archive.org has a section where users can download view or download libraries of many different ads from the 60s and 70s – Bactine Skin Cream, Alka Seltzer, and more.Watching these old ads, the deeper meaning of what advertisers really do to us shines through. One wonders why we aren’t more immune to the manipulations driving our economy at the expense of our mental health. One wonders why we are so easy to fool. Perhaps it is our own biology that dictates exactly what kind of themes trigger an emotional response – wanting to fit in, wanting to attract a mate, wanting to be envied? These archival sites offer us the chance to test ourselves against modern advertisers’ trickery. Next time you see an ad for a hot new car that costs a fortune, a car you know you don’t need but are going to be fooled into wanting, imagine you’re watching one of those old fashioned numbers from the ‘60s. You might still want it but at least you’ll be wanting the car, not what the car can do for you.
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