Tuesday, 31 December 2013

T for Toblerone

The distinctive triangular-shaped Toblerone chocolate would be instantly recognised by all but the most resolute of hermits. A unique blend of ultra-sweet milk chocolate and fine gravel (plus honey and nougat) has made it a firm favourite with the nation’s great supermarkets who mark all seasonal holidays by constructing towering piles of the stuff as if in homage to its Alpine origins. Brand-stretchers have devised a bewildering legion of variants from the original jaw-breaking pentahedron format in combination with many unlikely additives and a range of sizes from jumbo to nano. I suspect its popularity rests more on the packaging and typography rather than the pleasure to be obtained from extracting wedges of compacted chocolate slurry from inter-dental cavities. It was launched on the market in 1908 and this selection of fuzzily reproduced posters must come from the early days. The images appear to have been issued on perforated sheets and may have been intended to grace items of mail and bear the good tidings about Tobler products to all points near and far. All production is concentrated in the city of Bern in its Swiss homeland although the ownership of the business is now in the hands of Mondelēz International, formerly known as American food giant, Kraft Foods. 

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Chocolate Flight of Fancy

Suchard is one of Switzerland’s first generation of great chocolate makers and like many competitors sought to encourage brand loyalty by including collectors’ cards in every pack. They were issued in series and printed in colour – the breadth of subject matter was enormous but the artists took great care to ensure that a pack of Suchard was visible somewhere in every image. These images are no exception and together form an aeronautical fantasy in which Suchard products are harnessed to hot-air balloons to escape the force of gravity and take a dizzying flight high above the physical and man-made wonders of their native land. Ever more ingenious pretexts for placing the name of Suchard in front of the public are employed as the flight progresses – even lightning flashes and footprints in the Alpine snows are pressed into service. 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Christmas 1946

It looks like being a Wonga Christmas here in Britain. Blizzards of iPads and Play Station 4s will blanket the land, mostly paid for with payday loans or compensation payments for PPI mis-selling. Television remains the principle engine of consumption, alternately flattering, imploring or deceiving the viewers into parting with far more cash than they actually possess in order to give every appearance of boundless munificence. Looking back to the pages of Saturday Evening Posts from December 1946 we find that advertisers were deploying many of the techniques of persuasion that survive to this day as they scrap for a share of all the excess dollars that swill around every December. The example above from the insurance industry cultivates the sense of high anxiety and desperation that typifies Christmas for many. Tis the Season for Litigation – all the perils of Christmas cheer are graphically described here. Who hasn’t brained their neighbour with a snow shovel or entertained their guests with collapsing chairs? Compensation culture was already in full swing in 1946 America. Gift suggestions form the larger part of these ads and Christmas imagery is prominent. Where Santa puts in a personal appearance, the illustrators struggled to achieve a consistent standard of joviality and some distinctly ambiguous facial expressions can be seen. The tobacco industry was in its full majesty, marketing a wide range of gift packs and suborning the medical profession to testify to the benefits of smoking. A singular curiosity is the absence of alcoholic drink advertising, suggesting that the Post reader of 1946 was an abstemious creature, unwilling to see their favourite reading matter contaminated by publicity for the Devil’s cocktails. 

The railroads and airlines battle for supremacy in the “We get ’em home” category. The airlines would decisively win the battle in the next decade.

Attractive gift packs and a recommendation from the family doctor would surely be enough to eliminate any lingering health doubts on the part of smokers.

For men – shirts, ties, socks and pens, and for the lucky, lucky lady in your life, a shiny new Never-lift electric iron. Housework has never been so much fun.

The full-page Santas often had an unsettling air of menace about them.

Food and drink promotions relied on tableaux of seasonal euphoria, although Campbell’s Soup went for a less elevating message stressing the convenience of the product.

The home comforts and safety category was a brave attempt to sell some banal products by linking them to seasonal extravagance.

The man who covets a Higgins Camp Trailer may have unrealistic expectations but who could fail to be tempted by the graphic representation of such a thrilling range of activities?