"Point-of-purchase materials are those created specifically to engage the consumer at the point of sale. Point-of-purchase is an advertising method in itself. It has its own means of expression, its own restrictions, and an unlimited potential for growth and expression. "The expansion of self-service stores and the resulting change in consumer buying habits have contributed to the development of point-of-purchase materials. Their importance have increased with the growth of retailing and the needs of mass marketing. More often than not, unplanned buying decisions are made in the store, and the effective display of merchandise is the deciding factor in the consumer's choice.
"It is in the retail store, away from the mass media, that the consumer and advertiser confront each other -- the advertiser with product, the consumer with money. The results are immediately discernible."
-- Harvey Offenhartz, "Point-Of-Purchase Design" (1968)
Click on each photo for more information:
One hundred million Americans have never flown, have never been inside an airplane, are not aware of the advantages and pleasures of flying. American Airlines has developed an exhibit, called the Astrosphere, to reach this audience where it is most accessible, at the shopping center.
Inside the Astrosphere a theater was designed to resemble the interior of an American Airlines 707 Astrojet. The seats, although set eight across as in airliners of the future, are duplicates of 707 seating. The visitors strap themselves into the seats, put on headsets, and watch a twelve-minute film about travel across America, including a pilot's eye view of both the landing and take-off. Stewardesses assist visitors. and travel literature is provided in seat pockets located in front of the passengers. This on-ground pre-conditioning of prospective passengers cannot help but stimulate their desire for air travel. Conservative American estimates fore-cast two million actual visitors to the Astrosphere and ten million people who will have seen it.
The Astrosphere is the largest dual-walled, air-inflated unit ever built. It has aproximately 6000 square feet of usable space, over half of which is used for visitor traffic flow and exhibit areas. Carried in four forty-foot vans, it can be set up in three hours.
The interior view shows the 128-seat theater in the center of the Astrosphere.
The cutaway model shows the plan of the Astrosphere. In the area outside the theater are exhibits by American Express Company, Hertz Rent-a-Car, Holiday Inns of America, and Texaco. all showing the relationship of these companies to travel. Domestic travel is promoted in keeping with the Discover America program established by President Johnson. Flags surrounding the sphere are of the 50 states.
The American Airlines example of marketing at shopping centers to reach the consumer directly will inevitably be further developed by other companies. Shopping centers may soon become small world's fairs as marketers continue to cut the distance, be it physical or conceptual, between their product and the consumer.
-- "Point Of Purchase Design," by Harvey Offenhartz (1968)
At first glance, I thought these postcards might be German in origin, proud souvenirs sent home by an occupying army. But the scenes are too stark, too bleak. There are no triumphant soldiers posing among the ruins or harassing the remaining population. Besides, they're not in German. A search for "Fot. J. Mizerski," however, revealed that these cards are from just after the end of hostilities, before the rebuilding; before any commemorative anti-war monuments could be erected. Similar examples of Mizerski's work pop up in collectors catalogs, but I was unable to find out much about him. (Perhaps a better informed visitor can help fill in the gaps.) But just because extensive research is out of scope for this post doesn't mean we can't appreciate these images for what they are: beautiful work that any photographer would be rightly proud of. I'm afraid we can't say the same for his subject.
More about Warsaw:
I couldn't resist this calendar when I saw it last week during a visit to a local antique store. Not only are the photos exquisite, but each one comes with all the technical info: f-stop, exposure, film type, etc. Ironically enough, the photographers themselves are not credited! But here's the real hell of it: the last page states that "prints suitable for framing of any of these calendar subjects...may be obtained free of charge by writing Union Pacific Railroad...!" Since I assume this offer is no longer valid, allow me to honor the spirit of their largess by offering them to you myself. Click on each photo for more info.
The day after Christmas, my wife and I attended a hockey game at the Jobing.com Arena. This state-of-the-art facility stands adjacent to something called the "Westgate City Center." On what was once a quiet corner in Glendale is now erected this new mall "concept:" a pre-fab fake "town," surrounded by lots of freshly bulldozed, freeway-accessible real estate: "Shop Here - Dine Here - Live Here - ONLY HERE!" "LIVE WHERE YOU LIVE!" I'm sure there are several of these sorts of places in your town as well.
This "multi-use destination" is mostly comprised of restaurants as big as city blocks. The "food," served up in different shapes and "flavors," is your typical modern corn and soybean based cuisine. What these places offer is not so much "nutrition," as a Disney-fied, sports-bar kind of "atmosphere" designed to simultaneously stimulate and dull the senses.
As we stood huddled beneath five-story-high images of Carlos Santana and Mel Gibson, we watched a teenage fake-rock band supply the soundtrack to house-sized video displays broadcasting ads for local casinos and upcoming "tribute "concerts. At one point, an ugly long-haired dude in a shiny shirt came on the screen. He sat on a brand new leather couch, moving his lips inaudibly. Above his luminous head appeared this grave message: "$998."
Spaces like the Westgate City Center make Phoenix's older box malls look like palaces of subtlety and restraint. But the kids that milled around the grounds that night seemed just as enthusiastic about their current shopping arrangements as our grandparents' generation must have been. And as these old photos from "Arizona Highways" clearly show, nothing evokes "civic pride" like a new retail innovation. These photos leave little room for debate on the matter, taken as they are from an article entitled "Phoenix - City Of Shopping Centers."
Most of the businesses in these pictures are long gone, but if you look closely, you might recognize something of what remains.
Whatever happened to the grand livestock of yesteryear? The one's we'd to proudly parade up and down the central arteries of town? The ones for whom only our fanciest ranching duds would do? The ones we'd pose our children in front of? The ones our popular local photo magazine would so graciously feature in four colors between its covers? Long since eaten I'm afraid, and their decedents relegated to the evil confines of some factory farm hidden out of site up in the hills somewhere. The only time they get their pictures in a magazine these days is if they're lucky enough to have some PETA spy smuggle a camera into one of their torture sessions.
I joke, of course. The Arizona National Livestock Show continues to this day, going strong, "supporting youth and promoting livestock and agriculture since 1948." In fact, you can go see it this year from December 28 through January 1 at the Arizona State Fairgrounds. Bring your camera (hidden or otherwise).
But if you can't muster the effort to head down there (I know I can't), you can check out these glorious pix from yesteryear -- the October 1968 edition of "Arizona Highways" magazine, to be specific.
When I was growing up, nobody could explain my grandfather's job to me. Even when I was an adult, my mom couldn't really tell me what he did for a living. I knew he was a Shriner, because I saw his hats. I knew he liked to collect restaurant menus, because I saw the blog posts. Beyond that, all I ever knew was he had an office downtown. Last month, I finally learned the truth.
My grandmother was a regular fangirl when it came to her husband. From the 1930s right up through the mid-sixties, she kept a huge scrapbook about my grandfather, tirelessly collecting hundreds of photos and newspaper clippings documenting the ups and downs of his career. And while my grandfather was no Frank Sinatra or Mikey Mantle, he was quite a superstar in his own right.
The story begins shortly after my grandparents' marriage and finds my grandfather working for a liberal newspaper in Syracuse, Nebraska. In 1936, the Otoe County Democrats elected him the youngest party chairman in the nation.
In short order, he was formally swept into the local bureaucracy, first as Assistant County Clerk, then as a trucking inspector for the Nebraska Railway Commission. Thanks to his ties to the newspaper business, or maybe just due to his basic inherent interestingness, my grandfather collected boatloads of ink throughout his career. He gathered tribute every time he climbed the ladder, garnering praise and support from peers and politicians. Along the way, he signed off on major issues of the day, and contributed "humorous" human-interest filler that would be considered inappropriate today.
Alas, despite Nebraska's deep roots of progressive populism (or maybe because of it), the state couldn't sustain a consistent majority for FDR. In the spring of 1940, my grandfather managed the Democratic candidate in a special election to fill the vacancy left by the death of a sitting senator. The Republicans campaigned against the New Deal and won by a landslide. Later that year, after Nebraska awarded its electoral votes to Wendell Wilkie, my grandfather found himself out of power and planning his return to the private sector. He soon relocated to Minneapolis, reinvented himself as a successful businessman, immersed himself in the Chamber of Commerce, and continued to generate column inches in the local newspapers.
Around this time, his media visibility expanded and took an unexpected turn. During the war, my grandfather began appearing as a model for print advertisements. (An earlier accident kept him out of the service.) Significantly, the roles he adopted charted both his own trajectory and the country's -- out of the Depression and the war, and into the boom of the late Forties and early Fifties. The earliest of these ads portray him as an overall-clad working class hero putting his back into the war effort. Later, he's an upwardly mobile everyman in a hurry to claim his slice of postwar prosperity. Finally, he's a successful self-made man, living the model suburban dream.
After the war, my grandfather owned several successful businesses before he finally moved out west and joined CIT Corporation (yes, the very same CIT that's been struggling for its life lately). As the vice president in charge of the Phoenix office, he doled out financing for many of the construction companies that built the modern Arizona. Here, he finally becomes recognizable to me as the man who became my grandfather -- the guy with the carving utensils, serving up the holiday meals with a gruff efficiency and a policy of zero tolerance for tom-foolery at the dinner table. While these later years tend to strike me as anticlimactic, this period certainly brought him his greatest rewards. Like so many of the men of his generation who saw his country through the crises of the day, he was glad to take his place in line when it was time to reap the rewards he deserved.
And yet, my grandfather lived long enough to watch his country become unrecognizable to him. He saw the Democratic party fall apart during the Sixties, prey to both its own hubris and events beyond its control. Unable to corral its own disparate elements, the party splintered. (Sounds familiar, doesn't it?) Eventually my grandfather switched sympathies. But if he found any real satisfaction in the party of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, he never said anything to me about it.
In the end, extreme age and deteriorating health telescoped his life into a series of restless nights and passing days. I got to know him a little better once I got older, and he always impressed me as a serious, savvy son-of-a-gun. To hear him tell it, he never knew a fool that he suffered gladly. As his photos clearly show, he was a good-old-boy to the core, even as a young man -- a true big fish in a small pond. And though I might not have believed it when I was younger, nowadays I can't help but see a little bit of him staring back at me in the mirror. I'm glad I finally found out what he did for a living.
I made my first visits to New York City as a touring musician, but my experiences were of a no less hayseed variety: getting lost looking for a public restroom, getting lost trying to follow directions after dark ("go east after exiting the subway..."), and my greatest moment: waking up in the back of the van, thinking I was in Buffalo and getting lost.
Eventually, I graduated from the back of a van to an actual hotel bed, as my career elevated me from the notorious CBGBs men's room to the posh washrooms of mid town. My band-mates and I would bounce from one office building to the next, discussing the poor quality of our music with the record company, the poor quality of our finances with the accountants, and the poor quality of our contracts with the lawyers. In between, we got to partake of some mighty fancy restaurants (all charged to the band, no doubt).
Now that I've returned to civilian life, my visits to The City are much less frequent. So I supplement my experiences vicariously, using visual aids. In addition to books and videos, I've also got the family postcard collection. And while I doubt there's little I can add to the vast plethora of Manhattania already available on the web, here they are anyway:
Like so many guys my age, I made my first connection with male sexual identity in the back of mass-market magazines like "True Detective" and "Man's Adventure." Naturally, I was drawn to the so-called "adult" content in these tiny sidebar ads, but what strikes me now is how juvenile they are, and how devoid of any actual females. They almost seem to suggest that pictures, films or stories about women are much better than the real thing.
When I got older, I began to experience the "skin trade" up close. I remember visiting my first downtown adult theater when I was eighteen or nineteen. This place was different from the "peep show" places that offered curtained smut loops for a quarter. This was an real "theater" that showed full-length films. It shared a strip of commercial property with a pawn shop, a liquor store and an anonymous storage facility. It had no lobby or backstage -- just a screen and a low platform at one end of a small room and a 16mm film projector at the other end.
I have no memory of the films I saw that day. What I do remember was how after the first movie, a woman came out on the stage. To a soundtrack of the current disco hits, she removed her clothing, lay down on her back and and spread her legs. She lay there for a few minutes, then got up and left.
This was a surprise. The theater had not advertised live entertainment. A few minutes into the next film, I noticed someone coming towards me down the aisle. Before I could make out the figure clearly, I heard a woman's voice. "Can you give me some money for my dance?"
I quickly fished out whatever was in my pocket and gave her what she wanted. She rubbed the bills against her chest, moaned a little, and slid the money into a pocket. Then she moved on to the next patron. I watched the movie for a little while longer, but I knew I'd have to leave soon. I didn't have enough cash left for any more tips.
Up until that day, I had always assumed the "adult entertainment" business to be entirely one-sided and exploitative. It now occurred to me that the woman had actually derived some pleasure from the transaction, albeit second-hand, and not of a perverse nor prurient nature. It was the pleasure she got from keeping a roof over her head and providing food for her family. As I drove home, my guilt feelings in no way assuaged by the insight, I wondered which one of us had gotten the better end of the deal.
I haven't been to Chicago in over a dozen years, but I still have my memories. Unfortunately, most of them involve trying driving around the club trying to find safe legal parking for two vans and a trailer. So the next best thing for me are these postcards from my grandfather's collection, some of which date back a hundred years, to the 1893 World’s Exposition.
Aside from the postcards, the closest I've been to Chicago recently has been through a book and DVD by "This American Life" host Ira Glass and illustrator Chris Ware, "Lost Buildings." The DVD tells the story of a kid who's love for the work of architect Louis Sullivan led him into the orbit of photographer Richard Nickel. Forty years ago, Nickel traced an ever-shrinking circuit, documenting the progress of urban renewal as it consigned more and more of Sullivan's buildings to the wrecking ball. Increasingly frustrated by the loss of these historic monuments, Nickel finally met his end inside the old Chicago Stock Exchange building. Seems he'd been trying to rescue an ornate specimen of staircase railing from demolition when the floor above him collapsed.
No doubt, many of the older subjects of these postcards are long gone as well, and the ones remaining are not long for this world. Who knows? One day, I might actually get back to Chicago, create a circuit of my own, and find out.
Here's one I should seriously throw out. This coverless 1947 edition of "True Romance" was already in tatters when I found it in the back of a dusty gift shop in Oatman. But I fell in love with the magazine's beautiful postwar art direction, as well as its haplessly out-of-date take on feminine empowerment -- that is to say, landing a man. The advertisements were especially poignant, offering guidance on how to manage such typically tragic social disasters as halitosis, menstruation and "borderline anemia." And the advice doesn't stop at the altar. The helpful hints for homemakers are equally plentiful. No doubt, many of our own grandmothers used Drano to combat humiliating "sewer germs," treated "childhood constipation" with Fletcher's Castoria and curbed "spousal indifference" by douching regularly with Lysol brand disinfectant.
These ads are unrecognizably archaic. As one insists, "before your daughter marries, it's your solemn duty to instruct her on how important douching is to marriage happiness. But first, make sure your own knowledge is as up-to-date and scientific as it can be!" In another, "color authority Carol Neuschaefer" touts the latest "miracle ingredient" in this season's line of beauty products. Another one shouts, "She's Engaged! She's Lovely! She uses PONDS!" Next to a photo of the product surrounded by engagement rings ("diamonds for some of America's loveliest girls!"), reads a list of "beautiful women of Society who use Ponds": Mrs. Henry L. Roosevelt, Jr, Mrs. Richard C. Du Pont, Mrs. Anthony J. Drexell III, The Lady Victoria Montagu-Douglas-Scott and Mrs. Francis Grover Cleveland.
I'm ashamed to confess how much I paid for this museum piece. I was badly gouged. But I dutifully paid up and brought it home, tore it apart and scanned the highlights. I now present the best parts to you, not just for entertainment, but for your education as well. You never know when certain peripheral factions in our society might take the main stage and try to turn America's past into its future.