Wednesday, 1 January 2014

The ghost of advertising past

I'm going to be contrary and start my blog this year with a look back into the past instead of looking forward.

In these days of self-destructing posts on social media and ad-blockers of all varieties, it's interesting that there has been a renewal of interest in the medium of hand-painted signs on buildings, now known as ghost signs. There is a website dedicated to documenting and preserving such signs in the UK here, and a blog full of examples, including France and Germany here.

Most of the signs hail from the first half of the twentieth century and say a lot about everyday life in those days. Matches, cigarettes and beers are often featured, as are long-forgotten remedies, perhaps to put right an overindulgence in those vices.

But more extraordinary is the glorious optimism inherent in this medium. Who, these days, would dare to imagine that their brand might still be around in a hundred years, let alone that the price would stay constant? While some of the household names who advertised in this way, such as Bovril and Hovis are still with us, most, like Black Cat cigarettes have gone to the big brand graveyard in the sky.

It's a case of advertising long outliving the brand.

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