Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Vintage 1956 Ad
Listed 11/22/11; Sold 12/19/11
(Hawaiian Odysseus Photo)

It was about a month ago when I came across this cute baby ad in a national periodical that bore a 1956 issue date.  I was instantly intrigued by the simplicity of it.

My imagination took me back 55 years  into the past.  I thought of the ad team gathered around a conference table with piles of photo portfolios, unfinished typed text, penciled notes on half-crumpled sheets, coffee cups strewn all over the place, and ashtrays filled with cigarette butts and their still-burning siblings.

Long into the wee hours of the morning, they labor, riding the ecstatic highs of newborn ideas and crashing with the tumultous lows of fellow critics' rejections.

Until, sharply at 4 AM when the night janitress arrives to do her cleaning, bringing with her an unusual item, her 7-month old son.

Simultaneously surprised and embarrassed to see the ad men still confined to their office, she quickly explains that her husband--a fireman--has had to respond to an out-of-state wildfire emergency...thus leaving her with no time to recruit a minuteman babysitter.

She puts her baby, now awakened by the strange surroundings and stale smell of the office, on a sofa in as remote a part of the conference room as she can get to.  Her brow is furrowed as she wonders how she is going to get her work done in the midst of the extra bodies and all their clutter.  But first, she has to change her baby's diaper...

One man, a bit irritated and unnerved by this intrusion, attempts to light up another cigarette.  Big Jim, the copyright editor, shakes his head No!  The silent implication is clear:  There will be no smoking with a baby in the room.  

Fatigued and disgusted with themselves for not coming up with any winning ideas, the men find themselves drawn to the sight of the baby.

The midsummer night's warmth compels the attentive mother to leave the baby dressed in only his new diapers. He coos at his mother while grabbing his toes.

A square plastic cylinder of Johnson's Baby Powder, still opened, falls to the floor.  A cascade of white dust, like horizontally falling snow, gushes from the multiple holes of its lid.  With an audible sigh, the young mother picks it up and places it next to the baby...

Almost in unison, with a serendipitous and paradoxically silent yet multi-decibel EUREKA!, the ad men look at each other...then back at the baby...and then begin laughing and cheering.

Nothing...absolutely nothing...gets the message across as effectively and convincingly as...



Taking a lesson from this, I decided to cut some of the literary fat from my listing descriptions, especially the ones for vintage ads.  It's not only made my job easier and more time-efficient; I've actually made more sales as of lately.

It stands to reason that the magic that appeals to prospective eBay buyers of vintage ads transcends anything the seller might take pride in writing.  There's something about an ad that jumps out and grabs the viewer--an old memory, perhaps; the universal appeal, as in the case above, of a contented baby; an actual job experience with the ad's sponsor; or the clever way a phrase is turned.  Whatever that whimsical ingredient is, it's my responsibility as a seller of ads to sit in the driver's seat, as it were, and BE the buyer (as a Zen Master would put it).

Yes, visualization is alive and well in my self-proclaimed full time job.

And if I have to become a powderpuff or take a powder to fight this unrelenting recession, then so be it!  No matter what, I sure am having fun!

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