My own collection (approx. 100-150.000 ads) provides a rich starting point, but is slightly biased. I've collected ads that I found to be unusual, beautiful or interesting either from a marketing or from a historic/documentary point of view, which means that there are MILLIONS of ads that I have seen, but not kept. Among those there could have been many that contained the word "modern".
Using Google to search the internet has the same problems as an ordinary Google search - the search algorithm will show you the sites with the highest ranking, not necessarily the best sites. However, if you know what you're looking for, a Google search is a wonderful tool to find extra examples, illustrations etc.
I decided to start by looking at what I found during my regular work as dealer; every new pile of magazines purchased is basically "new raw material", so while harvesting and sorting the ads I put everything relating to "modern" aside, even the ads that I did not find collectable or commercially valuable. This ensured a fairly random random first search which I hoped would provide us with enough material for more specific searches later on in the project.
After I while I had found 109 different ads (and the number keeps growing weekly, sometimes daily). The sample is to small to be statistically reliable, but gives a good first impression.
As first attempt at classification we put them in chronological order and counted the occurrences per decade. Below is a graph showing the results.
|Occurrence of the word "modern" in advertising per decade.
We see confirmed what we thought at the start of the project: a peak in the 1930s and a second peak in the 1950s. So far we weren't able to find any "modern" ads from the 1980s and upwards [which doesn't mean they don't exist :-) ]
The sudden decline in the 1940s is most likely due to the Second World War and its aftermath, during which period society had other things on its mind than being modern.
In another post we'll go into the different products/product groups that were advertised as modern.
 Modern Living series, for more info follow this link