As we speed ahead towards Christmas Day, either from a religious or commercial POV, I sometimes find it hard to slow down and actually enjoy the many events along the way. Too often my mind races ahead, eager to check off that mental to-do list rather than focus on the here-and-now.
With that in mind, I rescued a wonderful Archie Comic issue from a comic shop’s bargain box! Wonderland Comics in Rochester, NY, always has so many scrumptious treasures available.
It’s Laugh #203 from February 1968, which means it was probably on sale around Christmas of 1967. Veronica, Betty and Mr. Lodge are admiring a retailer’s window, which features paper dresses. This was a short-lived fad, popular from ’66 to ’68. Current movie fans may have revisited this craze in the stylish new movie Last Night in Soho. It’s a brilliant movie and highly recommended.
Back when magazines were a big deal, advertising executives called the back cover “Cover 4”. It was usually the most expensive ad page. The thought process was that readers had a 50-50 chance of seeing the front cover or the back cover.
Cover 4 for this issue features a wonderful Christmas Ad. It’s curious to readers today but certainly was “normal” back in the day. Kids loved their bicycles a generation or two ago. Bike ads, and ads for bike related items (tires, brakes, speedometers, etc.).
This ad, from the Stewart-Warner Instrument Division (obviously not named in hopes of creating Christmas “must-haves” for kids) for their Cadet Speedometer. It’s a special speedometer that kids would put on their bikes.
Today, of course, bikers like me just use the Strava app. Yes, there’s now an app that has replaced this product.
This wonderful ad has the Mad Men feel to it. It’s clever and upbeat. It’s not particularly inclusive to consumers who don’t celebrate Christmas, either. The copy [the words in the ad] were thoughtfully written and creatively designed, with an alternating placement, as if two speakers were “talking” (or singing?) to the reader. And back in 1968, it was assumed that kids were going READ the damn ad. It wasn’t about one big graphic image and a logo; instead, it was about romancing the consumer with a conversation.
There’s no focus on product benefits here. This ad isn’t about the joy a bike rider can experience when she’s whooshing down a steep hill at top speed. This ad is all about the product features instead.
With all the shortcomings to it, I think this ad, somehow, has quite a bit charm to it. I love it and I’d trot down to my local Woolworths and buy a Cadet Bike Speedometer as a show of support today…if any of those things still existed.
But Wait There’s More
A few other thoughts about this wonderful comic. And yes, I’m working hard to squeeze the most value out of that crummy $1 I paid for it:
The People Say We Monkee Around: As if in a nod to recent passing of Mike Nesmith (my favorite Monkee), this issue also has a groovy ad for the Davy Jones fan club. It’s full of gushy fan-fun, but I especially love the copy. All hand lettered, and presumably meant to evoke the trippy qualities of 1960s drug use. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say of what the starched-shirt adult crowd thought LSD or pot use was like in attempt to monetize it.
Even that cut-out coupon – so funky. I can just imagine parents not quite getting it when it’s not a traditional rectangle. That was probably part of the idea too.
Indicia: I love to check out the indicia on the title page. You know, that block of mouse type copy with all the boring publishing and legal info. Silver Age Marvel comics are infamous for all the faux company names used in the indicia. It’s nutty, but you might open up a copy of Amazing Spider-Man, Rawhide Kid or Millie the Model to find it’s actually published, not by Marvel, but by Non-Pariel, Vista or Zenith Publishing. (It’s a fascinating rabbit hole for fans to dive into.) This issue of Laugh has a bit of that kooky charm, as it’s (technically) not published by Archie Comics, but by CLOSE-UP, INC.
Subscribe Now: Checkout the premium used to entice fans to subscribe. It’s a raincoat! Isn’t that what every kid wants? Why didn’t all those kids in the 60s just go inside and watch TikTok videos when it was raining? What was wrong with them back then?
Hip Huggin Hairdos: I know you’ll find this amazing, but in 1967 you could get a “fantastically long glamour fall” for just $1.95. Here in 2021, “Hip Huggin Hairdos” just sounds a great band name to me.
Peeping Tom James Bond: The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was all about saving the world from ..uh..spy stuff. Somehow, doesn’t it seem off-brand that there’s an ad for a Spy Pen that allows “undercover operators” to see through walls? This ad uses an illustration of a spy looking through a wall to see a long-legged beauty adjusting her stockings. Kinda creepy, you must admit.
Let me give a public plea/shout-out to Archie President (and all-around great guy) Mike Pellerito. “Here’s to more cool ads in Archie Comics in 2022!“