Please feel free to comment, critise or send us your additions and suggestions for future blogs; as a dealer, I also buy new material, send your offer to

Commentaar en aanvullingen op deze blog zijn van harte welkom. Heeft u advertentie materiaal of oude tijdschriften waar u zelf niets meer mee doet, stuur dan een email naar Voor mooi materiaal betaal ik een goede prijs. Heeft u zelf belangstelling voor oude advertenties, kijk dan eens in de on-line catalogus van SROK Ads op of bij onze advertenties op Marktplaats.

maandag 10 februari 2020

Market segmentation and the Mentality model

From analysing the ads we found in our various corpora, it soon became obvious that not all 'modern' ads were targeting the same group of consumers.

In looking for a model that could help us further, we came across the Mentality model by Motivaction, basically a psychographic market segmentation.

(Psychographic segmentation - as opposed to for instance demographic or geographic segmentation - involves dividing your market into segments based upon different personality traits, values, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles of consumers)

It divides the consumers into 8 groups:

The Mentality model by Motivaction

As expected, ads with the word 'modern' appear in most categories in the middle of the model, but we think we have found some - especially car ads - that appeal to the 'new conservatives' (also called 'techno-progressives' in a private communication by a Motivaction researcher).

According to Motivaction's Mentality model, the new conservatives embrace technological change, while placing importance on traditional values, social status, and family.

An example of an ad that seems to be geared at this group is the 1929 Hupmobile ad we found:

Hupmobile, 1929

This ad praises the Century Six and Century Eight Hupmobiles for their technological sophistication: their engines are as complex and 'streamlined' as modern aeroplane engines, and give the car 'smoothness, power, and flexibility'. However, it isn't all about technological innovation for its own sake. While the consumer is told that the high-tech engines of the Century Six and Eight allow the 'high-speed transport' that characterizes the twentieth century, the cars are also prominently advertised for offering the more traditional values of being 'safe and dependable', and for offering good value for money. In this way, the ad appeals to both sides of the 'new conservatives', with their interest in technological change and emphasis on tradition.

That ads for essentially the same product could also be geared at totally different groups is nicely illustrated by two silverware ads we found. In the Mentality model, the 'modern mainstream' are focused on finding a balance between traditional values and modern consumership. They are family-oriented, materialistic and attached to traditional gender roles. 'Social climbers', by contrast, are materialistic, place importance on social status, and are focused on consumption and entertainment.

The WMF ad shows a young couple who will be using the WMF silverware set in their future home. As such, it is clearly geared at the 'modern mainstream': couples and 'young people' ('jonge mensen') preparing for their mainstream family lives together. The 1881 Rogers ad, however, with its focus on Hollywood celebrities, is targeted at 'social climbers'. In contrast to the WMF advertisement, this ad presupposes a group of consumers who want to model themselves on Hollywood stars through the goods they purchase - in this case, the 'Hollywood Ensemble' silverware set.

1881 Rogers, 1938. The text balloon on the bottom left says, 'For her own table, ANITA LOUISE - now appearing "IN EVERY WOMAN'S LIFE", a Warner Bros. Picture - has chosen this lovely silverware "Service of the Stars."
WMF, 1956. The caption below the photograph reads 'this is the most beautiful modern silverware'. The headline above the photograph shows the young man lovingly telling his fiancĂ©e, 'I admire your good taste...'.

Of course, we are using the Mentality model to categorize the ads after the fact. Advertisers at the time didn't design their ads with this specific model in mind and, therefore, mapping ads onto it isn't always easy to do. It is important to note, as well, that not all ads fit into this model. However, as a tool for gaining insight into which groups advertisers wished to target, it proves useful. For one thing, it shows that ads with the word 'modern' in them were not all geared at similar consumer audiences.

zondag 9 februari 2020

Modern is not for everyone

Obviously, there are different strategies for reaching your target audience (or customer segment - more about that in a later blog). While there is definitely a substantial segment of the population that identifies with being modern, there is perhaps an even larger group that needs a different approach.

Mostly, advertisers use words and phrases such as 'old' [as in Old Grand-Dad, Old Forester, Old Crow, Antique (all bourbon), Old Dutch Cleanser], 'the way grandmother used to make it', 'Aunt Jemima', 'reliable', 'has been in use for two generations', 'since 1884',  etc.

This is mostly for products/companies that need a solid, reliable image, such as insurance companies and banks. You will also find it in household and food & drink advertising - perhaps because people are more drawn to food products that have been around for a long time, and have thus proven not to be dangerous.

It is rare to find it in automobile advertising, and I was surprised to come across an ad for National automobiles that actually addresses conservative people, see the illustration below.

National Motor Vehicle Company, Motor, May 1913

This ad is also quite indicative of the attitude towards women at the time, but we'll save that for another project :-). For now I'll just quote a few lines from the text:

The National is a "Button Car" that appeals to a woman

She touches one button and starts the motor. She touches another button to turn on the lights. ...Everything is immediately and safely under her control. Her gown, of coat or hands cannot come in contact with anything that can soil them.

[1] Modern Living series, for more info follow this link

dinsdag 28 januari 2020

Counting ads

Before the Christmas holidays we had decided it was time for a more systematic approach to get a better feel of the percentage of "modern" ads within a well-defined set.

Up till then, our sources had been collections of ads or other ephemera, collected over many years by individuals. Their ways of "picking" items will always be biased in some way or other - some people limit their collection to items of a specific size, others by period, language etc. And since collecting is at least partly driven by emotions, some items are included in or left out of their collections without any rational explanation as to the reason why/why not. Within such collections we have found many great examples of the use of the word modern, but of course that is by no means an exhaustive search within a single corpus.

Therefor we decided to do a systematic search through entire volumes of magazines.

We requested many volumes from the Dutch Royal Library and spent quality time searching them page-by-page and did the same with a few bound volumes  of LIFE magazine from 1948 which I have in my own collection.

Below is a summary of what we found in the two LIFE volumes (JULY-AUG-SEP and OCT-NOV-DEC 1948).

Each volume contained 13 issues and each issue approximately 110 ads, making a total of approx. 2850 ads.

We found 36 ads containing the word 'modern', of which 2 ads occurred twice or more. This amounts to approximately 1.2% of the ads. Not a staggering number :-)

Of those 32 different ads, only 2 contained the word modern in the headline, 6 had the word in a sub-header (by our definition a piece of text set in a different (larger) font/typeface to distinguish it from ordinary text) and we counted the word 32 times in the text - 25 ads with a single occurrence and one ad with 7 (!) occurrences in the text (and also in the headline).


  1. "MODERN RUGGED" [Bostonians (shoes)]

  1. "With all this health and refreshment it's one of the biggest food values of modern times" [Florida Orange Juice]
  2. "Modern scientific suds" [Swerl]
  3. "... tire ... will ... modernize your car" [Goodyear]
  4. "It's so new. It's so modern. It's so different" [Hotpoint]
  5. "[gives] food energy - to sustain the pace of modern living" [bread]
  6. "a ... utensil with these modern features" [Quaker Oats double boiler]

  1. "Truly modern motorcar design" [Stubaker]
  2. "Modern insurance" [American Fore]
  3. "Modern patterns" [Rogers Bros.]
  4. "Modern comfort" [Goodyear]
  5. "Modern sanitary protection" [Tampax]
  6. "These fine, modern, medium-priced [camera's]" [Kodak]
  7. "Modern platform-type bed-springs" [Simmons bedsprings]
  8. "A modern, absolutely accurate alarm clock" [General Electric]
  9. "Modern styling in every line" [Royal typewriters]
  10. "The world's most modern vacuum cleaner" [Lewyt]
  11. "Modern engineering" [Lustron homes]
  12. "These ultra-modern one-piece razors" [Gillette]
  13. "The last word in modern living" [Oldsmobile Futuramic]
  14. "Modern case" [Sentinel clocks]
  15. "The efficiency of the modern jeweller" [Watchmakers of Switzerland]
  16. "No truly modern bathroom is is ever without Air-Wick" [Air-Wick]
  17. "A modern electric kitchen clock" [Sentinel clocks]
  18. "Chesterfield is building another factory - it's large, it's modern and ..." [Chesterfield cigarettes]
  19. "Just these three easy steps ... when you use the modern Bruce method - standing up" [Bruce floor products]
  20. "We've matched the modern beauty of this cabinet with the finest of electronic engineering" [RCA radio]
  21. "Complete modern home entertainment in one console" [RCA Tv-radio-phonogram]

We'll leave further analysis of these findings for another blog, but it seems that the word is mostly used purely for its dictionary meaning: of, relating to, or characteristic of the present: contemporary or involving recent techniques, methods, or ideas: up-to-date.

Only in a few instances (modern living, modern times, modern design) the ad seems to specifically target consumers who identify themselves with people living a modern life.

[1] Modern Living series, for more info follow this link