10 Vintage Ads Featuring Copywriting Techniques That Hold Up Today


As much fun as it is to scoff at vintage ads that are woefully offensive and out of touch, as a copywriter, I’m more intrigued by vintage ads that are still relevant, at least in terms of craft and technique. Here are a few inspiring vintage ads that make use of copywriting techniques that can still work to engage and convert in today’s marketing world. In the midst of formulaic headlines and regurgitated puns, it’s nice to take a step back and look at copywriting styles that have been relied on for decades. So next time you’re getting ready to right “Fit to Print” for the umpteenth time, you might try switching it up with one of these techniques.


Modern Dissatisfaction — Lionel
With this standout headline (and striking visual), parents and consumers are instantly reminded of all the toys, games and TV shows that do. A similar technique could be applied today by tapping into consumer’s exhaustion with constantly changing technology and endless gadgets.


Nostalgia — Cool Whip
One look at this headline and you’re back in the kitchen with your mom. Cool Whip offers a modern solution without sacrificing a favorite childhood experience.


Price — Life Saver 
With a fabulous design and three simple words referencing an unbeatable price, you don’t need any other copy to get across the message.


Instant Solution — Dixie
Though certainly out of touch in today’s world in terms of waste, the idea of providing an easy-to-understand solution holds up. (The cute kids don’t hurt, either.)


Creative Use — Scotch Tape
With something as ubiquitous as Scotch tape, it must be difficult to constantly find a new way to position a product. This inventive use provides a service for the customer without being overly sales-y and is especially relevant in today’s Pinterest-dominated world.


Disruptive Headline — Xerox
It’s virtually impossible to see this headline and not continue reading to discover what in the world they’re going to say next. This copy-heavy piece is both disruptive and engaging, encouraging the customer to interact with the ad in a way that seems pretty wild.


Extreme Confidence — Harvey Probber
In a marketing world where companies are attempting to sell by admitting the awfulness of their products, it’s refreshing to see an ad that simply stands behind the product.


Storytelling — OUIJA 
Just a few lines give you a window into the minds of this young couple. A wonderful example of storytelling without being wordy.


Straightforward News — Western Electric 
No puns. No alliteration. No wild claims of changing the world. I love this ad, because I’ve often been asked by clients to call a product “revolutionary” when it simply isn’t. I’ve explained that it sounds hyperbolic, but it’s been a battle many times. When a product really is revolutionary, like this one, all you have to do is say what it does.


Aspiration — Volkswagen
I could do an entire post on Volkswagen ads alone. This one stands out for me because it taps into aspiration but in the sense of showing you’re part of an elite class or that you have loads of money. Instead, it taps into the desire to be, feel and appear different and unique, which is of particular importance to many consumers today.

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