My sister gave me a wonderful book for my birthday. It was a complete look at my birth year and it included some truly cool advertising from the year. Being the TV freak that I am, I immediately searched for the Television ads for the day and unfortunately started on a whole new area of collecting:
Advertisements for televisions!
My favorite ad was for a “new slim portable-table TV” by Zenith. The sketch (no photos here) shows the TV fitting on top of a mantel because it’s so slim! Or on a table because it’s so small. It even shows a woman carrying the TV because it’s so portable! But that’s not all. Buy back then and you could receive, “for the first time ever. Space Command remote TV control”. Can you imagine being able to turn your TV on and off without getting out of your chair? (I think this invention caused the national weight average to double) The gizmo was the size of a cigarette box (not a coincidence if you ask me) and it had 3 buttons. Hey, there were less than 6 channels at the time so how many buttons did you need. (My current remote has 25)
TV ads come in color glossy from magazines and newsprint ads from the paper. Age adds to the price but stars really make the difference. Many TV companies used their stars to advertise their latest models. These advertisements look great framed.
In 1951, Magnavox hired the cast of the movie That’s My Boy for their ad. It includes Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and Polly Bergan, all hanging out with a “Big-screen” 13 inch television in a lovely Colonial cabinet. In the same year, General Electric was advertising “See it Big As Life” with their new 17 inch TV with the rectangular tube. (Is that better than a round tube?)
Throughout the 50’s and 60’s, TV manufacturers were pushing the advanced technology that today seems on par with an etch a sketch. In 1965, RCA was hawking true-to-life color with an ad that showed Jack Benny and Johnny Carson with no TV in the ad at all.
Combining TV ads with the space age always seemed like a good tactic. RCA used it when they ran a full page ad in Life magazine showing a family watching Star Trek on television. A truly fun ad has the Bonanza cast in black and white behind a TV showing the same scene only in color. RCA wanted to prove that color was exciting, but they should have picked a show that wasn’t done in all green and brown. A similar technique was used with a Joey Bishop ad, but at least Joey was wearing a red sweater. And speaking of red, comedian Red Skelton was a popular TV hawker appearing in numerous ads as was Dinah Shore.
Imagine the days of radio, hours and hours of listening to Dick Tracy, Jack Benny and The Shadow. Now imagine the day when you could see your favorite radio stars right in your very own living room. In the 1940’s NBC released a series of ads proclaiming that very thing; “Imagine Fibber McGee and Molly on Television!”. The ads show a sketched family watching a brand new television with a scene from an NBC show. Imagine the days when a magazine ad was needed to get you to buy a television….it wasn’t that long ago.
If you decide to collect TV ads, don’t pass up those ads that feature the TV instead of an actor. It’s great fun to see TV’s go from big bulky pieces of furniture, to portable, to space-aged in the 50’s and funky in the 60’s. The evolution of the television is easily documented with these ads, showing that Televisions aren’t just appliances, they’re art. And face it, paper advertising is a lot easier to store than the actual TV’s.
Adclassix – hundreds of ads to buy, or just browse through for fun.
Vintage TV Sets – no bells and whistles at this site, just a long list of great, vintage ads.
AtticPaper – features a terrific Star Trek television ad and many more.
If you’d rather collect the real thing, here are a number of books on the subject of Vintage Televisions.