Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Now showing at a shoe store near you!

The now-defunct Edison Brothers Company owned a number of shoe store chains (including Chandlers, Bakers, and Leeds) and had already been a leading retailer for nearly 50 years when, in 1972, they launched a humorous ad campaign that at first appears to have been geared towards hip movie fans but now comes across like an early experiment in meta-advertising. On the surface, the Edison ads were parodies of popular movies, not unlike what Mad, Cracked, National Lampoon and other humor magazines were doing at the time, except that here the parodies are actually being used as legitimate advertising to sell a product that, unless you’re a foot fetishist, falls totally outside the realm of arts & entertainment. However, a closer look reveals something else entirely: that these newspaper ads -- for shoe stores, don’t forget! -- were actually spoofing the newspaper ads of THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, SUPER FLY, THE TOWERING INFERNO, THE MARATHON MAN, ANNIE HALL and other popular movies of the day by mimicking their fonts, tag lines, billing blocks and artwork. Best of all, Edison had the chutzpah to ride the joke all the way to its logical punchline by “opening” each ad in the weekend movie sections of Friday newspapers, slipped in almost subliminally among real movie ads -- sometimes adjacent to the very same ones they were parodying.

And this wasn’t an occasional publicity stunt, either. Edison ran these ads two or three times a month for nearly 10 years! A few of the movies, like PLAY IT AGAIN SAM, were even spoofed twice.

Some of the ads work brilliantly -- I nearly choked on my bubblegum the first time I saw Edison’s take on THE CANDIDATE -- while others seem like rush jobs or missed opportunities (CLOGGY II), and one or two fall so woefully short of the target that you gotta wonder if the designers had any idea what they were aiming at to start with ("Don Ripples" in EASY STRIDER?). I think my favorite is THE TIE THAT LOVES YOU, which begins with "Wedger More as Tan Funning's 007½B" but then seems to make a bizarre visual reference to SHERLOCK HOLMES IN NEW YORK! I get a kick out of finding new ones (the gallery below is far from complete) and I'm unashamed to admit that the “collect them all” quality of the Edison ads reminds me of the first time I tore into a pack of blue STAR WARS trading cards.

According to Martin K. Sneider, former president and CEO of Edison Brothers (1987-1995) and currently an adjunct professor of marketing at the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, credit for this unique and entertaining campaign should go to the late Morrie Pearlmutter, who ran the company's advertising department for many years. Bravo, Morrie! We'd like to extend our thanks to Mr. Sneider, whose self-published memoir Toast: How a Leading Retailer Went from Toast of the Town to Just Plain Toast (Four Penny Press, 2009) is now available. You can read more about it here. For more information about the Edison Brothers, check this out.


(A work in progress)

September 22, 1972

September 22, 1972

September 29, 1972

October 6, 1972

October 6, 1972

October 13, 1972

February 23, 1973

April 6, 1973

April 27, 1973

May 11, 1973

August 17, 1973

August 31, 1973

October 12, 1973

October 26, 1973

August 24 & 25, 1974

September 6, 1974

October 11, 1974

October 25, 1974

November 8, 1974

March 14, 1975

March 21, 1975

April 11, 1975

May 2, 1975

May 16, 1975

November 25, 1976

September 2, 1977

September 16, 1977

November 25, 1977

December 9, 1975

May 5, 1978

September 8, 1978

November 10, 1978

March 16, 1979

April 27, 1979

May 25, 1979

August 17, 1979

August 31, 1979


Anonymous said...

Nice job. We had Baker's in our area around the same time but I don't recall ever seeing ads like these. This was very informative, thank you. Entries like this one keep me coming back to the Temple!

Mike Mac said...

Sorry to get to this (and other comments) so late, but the last few weeks were not good. Anyhow, I didn't think that we had any of these stores in the Indianapolis area- but I was going through the Indianapolis Star for May of 1975 a while ago, and I saw that Two for the See-Through (or whatever) ad on May 15 or 16 of that year. I certainly don't remember seeing any of these ads at the time; I paid attention to the movie ad pages at the time, but didn't start to scrutinize them obsessively until 1981 or so.