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Friday, March 20, 2009

And ye shall know them by their small ads

Whereas the colour spreads of advertising at the front of the book express the aspirations of a magazine's readers, it's the small ads tucked away at the back that tell you what they're really like. Small advertisers, usually selling products you can only buy mail order, only advertise in places where they definitely get response. One of Smash Hits' biggest advertisers in the early 80s was Danilo, who would sell you a bum-flap or a pair of two tone shoes. This was in the days when such things were not available in the average high street. They wouldn't have been paying the rate if they weren't making enough profit to make it worthwhile.

Post-internet the small ad is a threatened species but in certain places it hangs on. The back pages of the New Yorker are full of products aimed apparently at the Niles Cranes of the Eastern Seaboard; highly-educated, Anglophile and apparently yearning for a more genteel life. There's Precision Hangers - "the dimple-free hanger solution", Upton - "purveyor of the world's finest teas", Mark Mormar, a biographer "who will tell your story when you're gone", John Christian, who will research and then produce your own family crest for $709 and, most poignantly, the Pavillion at McLean Hospital which promises "unparalleled psychiatric evaluation and treatment". All ads speak to the readership. But only with the small ads can you be certain somebody's responding.