I’ve got a pretty fun exercise for you.
Google search “ads from the 1950s” and brush yourself up on the iconic advertisements that once graced the pages of magazines, periodicals, and outdoor boards of the time. Actually, I’ll save you some time: All you’ll find are really sexist ads, lots of Coca-Cola and tobacco-a-plenty. That quick bit of research is actually what spurred this fun little exercise. What would an ad for a product back then need to look like in order to appeal to Millennial consumers today?

First, let’s glance over some of the old-school ads I’m talking about and note some elements of design in them.

 

the-soda-pop-board-of-america-1950s

Start kids on sugary drinks EARLIER! Yes, as toddlers. Sounds awesome. Gotta love the 50s.
Design elements to note: Lack of any apparent grid. Newsprint black-and-white image. Novelty typeface for the header.
Good things that are happening? A good sense of hierarchy—IMAGE, then COLA BOTTLE, then HEADLINE, then COPY—across the page with some consideration of white space.

summerglamor-collage

 

Next up: Ray-Ban sunglasses ad and Jantzen swimsuit ad. Obviously, both geared at women.
Design elements to note: The iconic color-printing style of the illustrations, the way the type wraps the image creating lots of stair-stepping patterns, and the direct eye contact made with the illustration to you, the reader.

 

smoking-makes-you-lose-weight

Here’s one of those tobacco ads I mentioned. It’s great. The fat kid is the slow runner. The All-Star? Obviously a smoker. And the best part? Toasted tobacco means less throat irritation. Fantastic.
Design elements to note: The very propaganda-esque style of the ad. The hierarchy of the visual elements, again. Finally, the constantly underlined brand name … constantly … everywhere …

So, now, the meat and potatoes of this post: Let’s Play with Soap.

Here’s the ad I’d like us to focus a bit more on:

graphic_ad_soap-1950s

Back when Palmolive was in the business of personal care products, they also made face soap. This ad in particular touts the “schoolgirl complexion” benefits of the product, as well as what looks like plenty of testimonials from girls in … high school (?), perhaps. And that main woman’s schoolgirl complexion is one that our supporting male costar cannot resist. So, what I want to note in the ad: First of all, the mild sexism in the ad. “If you wash your face with this product, the boys will be all over you.” Also, novelty typefaces and lots of copy. Not a terrible ad, honestly. But definitely wouldn’t fly in today’s Millennial-driven market.

Now, taking a stab at a redesign:

 

PalmoliveAd

There you go. Compare, contrast, and take it all in.

Some things to note: I took out all the girls’ faces and replaced the subject with one happy, smiling subject. She looks good, she’s happy, and she’s also not white. Millennials are generally much more racially and ethnically diverse than older generations. She also looks very confident; a huge plus for female Millennials who appreciate feeling valued, empowered, and strong. For Millennial women, the future is in their own hands.
Next, took out a lot of the text and created a two-option journey for the viewer. Option 1: The Skimmer. This viewer will first look at the eyes of the model, then the headline, “Naturally You.”, then the smile, the bottle, and finally the logo. A big visual zigzag, which is how most skimmers travel a page. Option 2: The Reader. This viewer will still travel the page the same way, but stay on it for a while. For them, there’s some copy (the small words on the page) that has a voice of independence, empowerment, and ambition. This reader will receive the values and emotional message of the brand, and hopefully connect those to the product itself. *Marketing*
Finally, in the content, a big push for “Natural.” Millennials today care about the environment around them and about what they are putting in/on their bodies. There’s lots of debate as to whether Millennials are solely attitudinally “greener” or actually behaviorally “greener,” but we do know that they notice.

That’s my take on designing an ad for a product that doesn’t even exist anymore. Fun exercise over all, especially in the research phase. I’d love to hear input on the older ads and my take on the newer one. Heck, if you have time and resources, redesign one yourself and share it with us.

 

Cheers!
— Joey