Run a Vintage Print Ad Campaign

Looking back at the print advertising from the 70s, 60s, 50s, and even the 1940s can be like voyaging through a surreal fantasyland developed by artists who were simultaneously genius and carnivalesque.

However, these pieces are far from just relics of another age of advertising. They’re also inspirational tools that any designer can use to begin building a print ad campaign.

The value of using vintage print advertising techniques in a current campaign is manifold:

  • It has tremendous potential for standing out from the glut of current advertising styles.
  • Having endured the test of time, the consumer now automatically associates vintage print ads with artistic design, rather than just pure advertising. Simply put, it has an aesthetic appeal all its own, thereby promising the consumer MORE than just commercialism.
  • The familiar style makes it easy for consumers to make snap associations, thereby getting your message across fast.
  • The style offers ton of opportunity for ironic self-referentiality, creating an automatic foil upon which to play off your unique brand identity.

Some of the principles of vintage print advertising that make it ideal for today’s market are:

  • The potential for placing disturbing or shocking images in a mundane setting. For example, using babies to advertise cigarettes.
  • The use of covert sexuality. Hey, moms aren't always wrong! Sometimes, a woman in a tight sweater set is more full of promise than a woman in a string bikini.
  • The use of hand-illustrated images, which are a sharp contrast to the flawlessly glossy Photoshop offerings of today.
  • Over-the-top copy. Although you don’t want to use an excess of copy, as was somewhat commonplace in previous eras of print advertising, you can imitate the corny, promising-the-world style, which will be taken as tongue-in-cheek by consumers.

This style of advertising isn’t for everyone, but for any campaign that is looking for a risky, surprising, fashionable way to get attention, this approach can be extremely useful. Paradoxically, using vintage advertising techniques can be a great way to introduce a cool new product, service, or event.

Here are some great archives of vintage print advertising you can use to start getting inspired:

Probably the largest online collection.
A small but detailed selection.
Fun and easy to browse.

A modern-day vintage ad contest, and the inspiration for this Design Idea of the Week.