How have I missed this amazing time-waster?

I will admit that not every minute at work is spent doing highly-productive things.  I generally avoid playing games and watching YouTube videos, but I am known to delve into science articles (which is not a metaphor for porn) that have no bearing on advertising.  However, ever now and then, my random Googling reveals something interesting (to me).  Lo and behold, I found something amazing.

I’m surfing for something legitimate and I notice at the bottom that Google has put up a section called, “news archive results.”  I have probably noticed it before, but ignored it.  For some reason I read a little closer and realize Google is giving me information from 90 years ago.  I click the link and it opens up a scan of an old newspaper.

I realize that not only has Google provided me a scan of an old newspaper, but that they have highlighted keywords for me as well.  Suddenly I am hooked!  What I realize is that I have discovered 2 amazing things (well, 3 if you count finding that this exists as 1).  First, I can waste time at work reading old newspapers which is pretty cool and second, that a treasure-trove of data is at my fingertips.

As for the time-wasting part – I think the opportunity (not necessarily the act itself) of reading old newspapers is cool.  I spent a little time and looked up the news on VE day and VJ day and Pearl Harbor and other major moments from history.  It’s amazing to see the take on events.  Events from the past have been condensed for me by someone else – going back source documents gives a different perspective.  It’s so strange to read about JFK’s assassination in a breaking news edition of a small-town paper instead of what is being presented to me at a museum.

As for treasure-trove of data – there is amazing opportunity here to gather data about the science of advertising.  Businesses run advertising that works.  When it works, they keep doing it.  When it works for someone else, they copy it.  By looking at old ads, we can follow brand analysis over X number of years to see how the advertising evolved.  Overlay that evolvement with social commentary from other parts of the newspaper and you get psychographic overlay.  Measure pricing with economic data also found in the paper and you have the opportunity to see economic pressures.  In short, everything you need to conduct a nearly 100-year PEST analysis (Political, Economic, Social, Technological) review of a brand is RIGHT HERE!

Why does old data matter?  It forms a baseline for analysis for future development.  Want to know how consumers respond to certain brands in a recession?  You’ll have to go back to the 80s, 70s and 30s to do it – and now it’s right here at your fingertips.

If you’re an advertising student – or someone in advertising trying to impress a big brand – do the following:  Pick a newspaper and pick a brand.  Go through every issue of that paper and find ads for a brand.  Chart that brand over time.  Overlay that timeline with major events and create a PPT.  Take that PPT with you and get a job.  No, seriously.

Take shaving cream – pick something still around – like Gillette.  Start as far back as you can go.  Look at every ad for Gillette you see and note price, message, creative and call-to-action.  Now, look at other parts of the paper and note what was going on politically, economically, socially and with technology.

For example, tell them, “Here is the price of shaving cream over 100 years.  Note that in the great depression, the price dropped.  Why?  People don’t have money, went with cheaper competitors so you were forced to lower your price.  Note that in WWII price went up.  Why?  Men were at war, less demand – needed chemicals for other purposes, price went up.  Note that in the 60s price went down.  Why?  Hippies were wearing beards – less demand – lower price.

Here is the message you were conveying to consumers over the years – we’re cheap / we’re smooth / we’re the best / for the classy fellow (whatever, I’m making this stuff up).  Why does this matter?  Look at to whom the ads were targeted.  People of a certain demographic were converting to electric shavers – you changed your message to reach young people who couldn’t afford the technology.”

You get the idea.  Now, take that data and pull out something current regarding PEST from today.  Since the economy is pretty crummy, show how the brand responded to past economic challenges and what their message was (better value / lasts longer / use less, etc.).  Show them that all the money they pay for strategic focus-group marketing will yield the same information as you are showing them, because past indicators are often an indicator of future activity.  You will look like a genius.

If you take this idea and run with it to get a really good job, please keep us in mind if you need an agency.

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