For a long time we had been wanting to do something together involving advertising and in 2018 we sent in our application to the Ephemera Society of America (ESA) for the Philip Jones Fellowship for the Study of Ephemera.
Our idea was to investigate the use of the word 'Modern' in advertising. Some of the questions we wanted to answer were:
- How and when is the word used?
- Is it used in specific industries (automotive, apparel) only or do you find it in advertising for all sorts of products?
- Is it more common in certain periods?
- Is the word targeting a specific consumer demographic?
- Who labels the products as 'modern'? Is it the advertiser who first labels the product as modern? Or are products already perceived as modern by the consumer and are advertisers simply using the word in their advertising to confirm that status?
- Are there advertisers labeling their products as modern to boost sales while the product does not really deserve the label 'modern'?
We were very happy to receive the news earlier this year that we had won the competition and enthusiastically started searching for examples, using my own collection of advertisements as a starting point.
The project will result in a digital paper, to be published online in early 2020. Naturally, it will be profusely illustrated.
In this blog we will post a series of three short essays with the results of our research, interspersed with shorter entries containing scans of interesting ads.
Keep following this page for updates !
For more information on the ESA and the Philip Jones Fellowship, please refer to the links above; the ESA also has a Facebook page.