Thursday, December 17, 2020

ARP "Meet the Carpenters new string ensemble" ad, Downbeat Magazine 1975


ARP "Meet the Carpenters new string ensemble" black and white advertisement from the March 27, 1975 issue of Downbeat Magazine 1975.

I'm a cookie addict. As someone who likes to eat. As an online marketing professional. As a curator/archivist. Yum! But more about that in a sec...

Following hot on the heels of my post about ARP's 1975 advertisement that featured Pete Townshend of The Who and his 2600 is this lovely promo featuring the Carpenters and ARP's String Ensemble. As far as I can tell, this advertisement showed up in various issues in a few different publications in 1974 and 1975, but I've even seen it referenced in 1976 as well. 

It's interesting that it got so much page time, so rather than blog about The Carpenters, a band I unsurprisingly know very little about, I thought I'd take a look at the marketing side of things. In particular, the little "cookie" that followed this, and many other ads around like gum on a shoe to tell the company where someone saw this advertisement.

In a way, it's similar to the common digital cookie that can end up following you around the web, annoying you with an ad for a Home Depot lawn mower you were looking at earlier in the day. ARP placed a cookie in the mail-in section of many of their ads, so if you bothered to fill it out and mail it in, ARP knew you were responding to this very specific advertisement.  You can see that cookie in the close-up below (red box). 

DB 1-16-75. 

Downbeat, January 16, 1975. 

I can hear you say "but you said this advertisement was from the March 27, 1975 issue!" It sure was, but the advertising campaign or budget utilizing this ad probably first appeared in the January issue. Smart. 

If you look closely at the Pete Townshend ad I posted, it has a DB 6-5-75 cookie, so that particular ad campaign probably began in the June 5, 1975 issue of Downbeat - the one I scanned! And, if you compare it to the same ARP/Pete ad that appeared in the May 22, 1975 issue of Rolling Stone, you can see it uses a different code - RS-142. 

So, RS = Rolling Stone. But what the heck is that 142? Well... 

I'm not sure. No, really. Not sure at all. 

The May 22, 1975 issue of Rolling Stone was issue 187. Since Rolling Stone was produced bi-weekly (I think?!?!) at that point, it would mean that if that number referred to the issue number, the first appearance of this ad would be almost two years before. Which doesn't appear likely. So, yeah. Still a mystery. 

But the point is, when all those cut-out return forms start making their way back home, those little cookies let ARP have a better idea of which ad in which magazine worked best to get you to respond.  

When I first started noticing these cookies in magazines, I first thought maybe the code wasn't a company code at all - maybe it was included by the magazine as a courtesy or to show the company that got the form back that the reader saw the ad in that particular magazine. To try and solve this question, I started looking at other ads that included mail-ins. 

Sure enough, many other ads included a little cookie in their clip-out sections as well. But, the cookie in different ads were often in different formats. For example, in that same issue of Rolling Stone that the ARP RS-142 cookie is found, we also get the company below using a fictitious department called "Dept RS" as the cookie. This is interesting because if the reader decides they don't want to cut out the form from their precious magazine, they would still use this address to write to the company and the company would STILL know how the reader found them since the address on the letter would have included the cookie. 

Another ad for a reggae record from the same Rolling Stone mag used the PO Box (Box 6/RS) for their cookie:

"Feelin' High". Ha! Yes, I'm nine years old. 

And finally, this Monty Python ad below from the same mag has just a little "rs" in the bottom right corner. Adorable. 

I've seen them in all manner of magazines. Those I collect - like Contemporary Keyboard/Keyboard, Electronic Musician, Electronics & Music Maker,  etc... as well as magazines I just happen to be flipping through at a friends house or online. From the 70s to the 90s and beyond. Those little cookies are everywhere. 

I get especially excited when I see an ad with a cookie, but the cookie is for a different magazine entirely. It's like someone forgot to update the ad for the new mag.  That's pure adrenaline! Makes my day.

Once I started looking for them, I couldn't stop, and to this day I still look for them.

Now you will too! You got lots of time during your covid lock down anyways.

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