A look back at how classified ads captured attention

Posted on by

If you work in marketing you spend a lot of time thinking about where people focus their attention.

As nostalgic as we might be about the days of gorgeous double page spreads in glossy magazines, or high budget television ads sandwiched between shows that are being watched by millions, we know that this is not where most people now spend their time.

And while speakers at marketing conferences love to talk up the potential of virtual and augmented reality, the truth is almost no one is spending any time at all in the metaverse right now.

The focus for any competent marketer has to be not where attention was, or where it might be, but where it is now.

And right now, more often than not, attention is being focused on the small slabs of glass we all carry around with us.

Crafting compelling campaigns that work well on phone screens presents challenges – and opportunities.

Chief amongst these is that any message a marketer might want to deliver will usually be presented within an environment where sustained attention is scarce, and everything is just a swipe or scroll away.

But as a recently published book demonstrates, these challenges are not unique.

‘Classified: Local Ads from America’s Small Towns’, features hundreds of classified advertisements from 1970s small-town America. And while the context is different, the principle of quickly capturing attention in a crowded space is the same.

“Classified is a celebration of small-town advertising, and the overlooked genius, ingenuity, and humor in the work that was created purely to sell, but which we can now study and learn from,” say the publishers, Brooklyn-based Standards Manual.

“Classified stands as a testament to the challenges that designers of the time faced,” explains Yaya Azariah Clarke of It’s Nice That.

“Such as fitting in bulks of information into small rectangular layouts, all the while trying to make it stand out on a page full of ads doing the same thing.”

Hamish Smyth, co-founder of Standards Manual, told Creative Bloom: “It’s interesting to examine the often overlooked, everyday design that surrounds us all.

“Putting the book together was a nice experience remembering what I can of the pre-internet age,” says Hamish. “There are no URLs, QR codes, or even colours. Just good old fashioned graphic design, using words and images, and black ink.”

This entry was posted in Advertising, Behavioural Design, Content Marketing on by .

We'd love to work with you

Get in touch & let’s chat through your project

    Awards & accreditations

    • The Drum Recommended
    • Marketing Lancashire
    • The Bibas Winner
    • Lancashire Business Awards Nominee 2016
    • Boost Business Lancashire
    • Prolific North Marketing Awards
    • Awwwards Nominee 2016
    • Digital Lancashire Founding Member
    • Northern Digital Awards Winner 2023
    • Red Rose Winner