Discover Vintage Copywriting Secrets That’ll Have Your Customers All In A Lather

Have you noticed how “discovering” vintage finds is all the rage these days?  I’m sure our love for all things vintage is more than just wistful nostalgia for a bygone era.  Let’s explore this idea with this month’s topic – a critique of a vintage print advertisement from the 1940’s.

Now vintage ads may seem quite funny to us by today’s slick, digital, photo-shopped standards but they’re vintage with good reason.

Whether it’s vintage clothing, furniture, books or in this case – old print advertising, all these things have one thing in common that makes them stand the test of time.

That one thing is – craftsmanship.  The care and skill, with which these things were created, imbues them with a timeless appeal.  That timelessness is what makes it easily transferable through the decades and still work its magic on us.

So with that thought in mind, let’s take a look at the vintage print advertisement below.

Vintage Shaving Cream Ad

I’ve retyped the copy below, as it’s a little difficult to read from the image.


Let us show you five new joys we have brought to millions in Palmolive Shaving Cream.

This offers you a Ten-Shave Tube to try.

A very unique creation

Three years ago most men were wedded to some other soap or cream.  Then came Palmolive Shaving Cream, made by famous experts.  The final result of 60 years of soap study.

A test was offered which countless men accepted.  The users were amazed.

The results men like

Palmolive Shaving Cream multiplies itself in lather 250 times.  It softens the beard in one minute.

It maintains its creamy fullness for ten minutes on the face.  Its extra strong bubbles support the hairs for cutting.

The palm and olive oil blend makes the after-effects delightful.

5 Reasons why

Multiplies itself in Lather 250 times.

Softens beard in one minute.

Maintains creamy fullness for 10 minutes.

Strong bubbles hold hairs erect for cutting.

The palm and olive oil content brings fine after-effects.

To add the final touch to shaving luxury, we have created Palmolive After Shaving Talc – especially for men.  Doesn’t show.  Leaves the skin smooth and fresh, and gives that well groomed look.

Try it as a courtesy to us.  We made up 130 formulas in seeking to perfect it.  Now judge the result for yourself.  Clip this coupon.   Mail it at your leisure for a Ten-Shave Tube.

Even though this ad is quite daggy by today’s standards, it contains all the classic copywriting techniques in its structure and delivery of the message.

Let’s take a closer look and pick out the elements that make this a solid working print ad:

1. Attention grabbing headline

Good main heading captures your attention and is intriguing enough to make you wonder what could be so new in a shaving cream.

2. Visual layout

The print layout is very scannable.  Your eyes quickly skim over the content, taking in the sub headlines and straight over to the five reasons why you should use Palmolive Shaving Cream.

Image of the product is included at the bottom of the ad as well as an image of a man above the main heading and a couple of other visual clues.  Which brings us to the next point.

3. Target market

It is pretty clear from the visual clues alone that the intended target audience is males.  But then the first word you read after the main heading is “GENTLEMEN”, the copy directly addresses and seeks the attention of men who happen to be reading the newspaper or magazine the ad was placed.

4. Benefits – what’s in it for me?

The five benefit points or reasons why you should use Palmolive Shaving Cream are mentioned throughout the body copy.  They are also presented in number points to the right that recaps and reminds the reader of the main benefits of using Palmolive.

Yes, I know the benefits are a little vague by today’s standards, but this ad is a product of its time and at least they’ve been included.

5. Sub Headlines

Sub headlines are used to break up the paragraphs and information.  Short sentences are used throughout.  Simple language is used making it easy to understand even though it sounds “delightfully corny”.  It speaks in the style that people spoke back in the 1940’s.

6. Call to action

A strong call to action in the last paragraph encourages readers to mail the coupon to receive a free tube of shaving cream.  There is also a bonus freebie of shaving talc offered on the coupon for added incentive.

So there you have it, a vintage print ad with all the principles of good copywriting contained in the framework.

And with all good things that age well with time, this same formula is still very much in use today.

Have a closer look next time you receive a direct mail letter, flick through a magazine, or visit a website and see these principles in action.

Vintage craftsmanship – because it works!

Until next time,




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