And Now a Word from Our Sponsors…
March 16, 2012
George Clooney pushing Nespresso? Jerry Seinfeld pitching for American Express? Britney Spears munching a Big Mac?
Whatever you think of celebrity endorsements, there is nothing new about the concept. Today I bring you a delightful selection of silent era pitchmen (mostly women), taking advantage of that brief interlude between reels to do what Americans do best - sell stuff.
Of these slides that I have so far found, the celebrity doing the pitching is typically (but not always) female and the products on display are targeted to female consumers. Of course there are zillions of advertising slides that do not rely on celebrity endorsement. It is no challenge to find slides hawking everything from Cracker Jacks to veterinary supplies to motor oil to "silent" toilets. But if it is a movie star doing the selling, chances are that women are the target for the pitch.*
* [As much as I would like, this probably isn't the place to depart too tangentially into the development of consumerism, mass marketing, and leisure as a commodity. For a far better and more scholarly discussion of this topic, please check out American Cinema's Transitional Era: Audiences, Institutions, Practices edited by Charlie Keil and Shelley Stamp.]
Considering their graphic layout, product advertising slides are typically designed to facilitate local customization. Without exception, each of these examples features a blank space at the bottom the slide in which to display the name of a local merchant - a design the exactly mirrors motion picture coming attraction slides which include a blank space into which the projectionist would write the play dates,
The advertising slides featured here come in one of two basic design variations. The first type displays a product that a celebrity is endorsing, such as Olga Petrova's rings or Laura La Plante's watches. In these cases the slide advertises a specific branded product, and additionally informs the consumer where they can go to purchase one of their own.
The second variation endorses no specific product. Instead, through localization, the celebrity is implied to endorse the establishment itself. The ad feature prominently features the celebrity's image accompanied by some non-specific generic text, under which the name of the local establishment is locally printed. Such is the case with Claire Windsor and her baby leopard above, as well as the two Constance Talmadge endorsements that follow.
As I mentioned, it's not always women doing the selling. Here's Wally Reid getting into the act with a generic endorsement slide that has been customized to endorse the same candy store as that Constance Talmadge apparently also enjoys - when she isn't hanging out at Sperry's listening to the radio.
Slide images featuring Claire Windsor, Constance Talmadge (Sperry's), and Laura La Plante, courtesy of Mark Johnson.