The Duke University Digital Advertising Archives are a treasure trove for any ad geek (like me) looking to root around in our history. I didn’t know it even existed until a couple days ago; I do now.
Tonight’s object of fascination was war bonds. It’s hard to imagine selling people on giving money, from their own pockets, to fight a war. We live in a cynical age, and the people running our armies are excellent at proving us justified in our cynicism. But 70 years ago, the people believed in their sacrifice, and that winning that war would make the world a better place. They were right. And war bonds were a great way to join the effort, without, you know, joining the effort.
Examples after the break.
A couple of these ads were really smartly written. I love the attitude. And the no-nonsense typography. These stand in stark contrast to most of the ads, which are overblown, or schmaltzy, or about as clever as your average Catskills dinner comedian.
I liked the simplicity and elegance of this one, too. The layout was clean and spare, and wouldn’t have been out of place 20 years later. I imagine Helmut Krone would have seen something he liked in this one.
So many of the War Bonds ads feature glorious, propagandistic illustration — Rockwell without Rockwell’s awareness. This one stood out. Showing a dead soldier took a lot of guts. The headline is one of the great truths of any conflict: if you’re reading this in a newspaper, you’ve got it easy.
And, finally, what would a War Bonds retrospective be without a cartoony caricature of the enemy?