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When Advertising Smelled
06 Feb 2017

When Advertising Smelled

When you grow up with parents who run a family-owned marketing firm, you have some interesting and pretty unique experiences. It is likely that not every kid got to participate in stuffing hundreds and hundreds of mailers. I thought that was great fun, by the way. Most kids probably don’t head over to the family office after school to file magazines and accounting paperwork.

What I remember most about visiting the office when I was a kid, however, is a very olfactory thing. Back in the day, instead of having a computer on a desk, designers had shelves and shelves of markers. I was in LOVE with the marker sets our designers had. These were no Crayola sets. Every color imaginable was there. More than the colors though, what I remember is the smell. That scent came back to me as I was walking through a factory and smelled a paint that reminded me exactly of those markers. The smell of markers meant that work was happening. It was the smell of how my parents made money, although I was really not clear at the time exactly how that worked.

Everything about the advertising world used to have scents tied to it. Spray mount was used for presenting ad and literature concepts. Different stocks of paper had different smells. Printers used to come in with proofs and those had particular smells.

Nobody would question in the marketing world that computers revolutionized the industry in a great way. Different concepts can now be saved digitally and emailed to clients that same day. Layouts can be done on a screen. Hands don’t get dirty anymore, for the most part. I wonder, though, if this has helped make marketing seem less real to a certain extent. Do you feel as tied to a brochure that you laid out in InDesign as you would have if you used paper and pencil and markers and spray mount and glue? Is there the affection for the work today that there was when you had to smell all of those smells? Do we lose something today because we don’t have that “new brochure smell” anymore?

Even though computers were already heavily in use by the time I joined the company, I often stop and think about what the marketing world was like when I was a kid. It smelled, but it didn’t smell bad. It was recognizable. It got into your nostrils and sometimes made your eyes water. Maybe it enchanted us a little more than our work does today.

What do you think? Do you wish advertising still smelled?

Image Credit: via Creative Commons

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