I know I’m going to date myself, here, but I have this fascination with tiny promotional efforts yielding huge profit potential, and this obsession started when I was seven years old.
Back in the day, smoking tobacco was considered a healthy pastime. While I wasn’t attracted to smoking cigarettes at that early age, there was an accessory that intrigued me and I began to collect these items, like other kids might collect baseball cards. These items were available almost everywhere, and I could collect them wherever my family traveled to, any place I could get my hands on them.
I could even collect and/or trade them with other people – even complete strangers – who were not hesitant to trade, or assist me in upgrading an item in my collection. For instance, if I had possessed a gently used item in my collection, I might be able to trade it for one in pristine unused condition and people were genuinely eager to help me with my collection.
My collection consisted of books of matches, each featuring some kind of advertising on the matchbook cover.
I was captivated by the various methods advertisers would use with the combination of primal graphics and (mostly) brief text. In most cases, the matchbook was little more than a business card wrapped around twenty matches, in others, a full advertising campaign – possibly including a mail-in coupon – was featured on the book of matches.
In grade school a field trip to a local print shop pushed me over the edge, when I was able to discover the behind-the-scene secrets of how these little objets d’art were created. I was mesmerized and began to study all manner of typesetting and printing practices. In my youth the printing process was still very primitive, not far advanced from the same methods employed by Benjamin Franklin.
Later, my obsession expanded to include a similar small-space advertising technique: the one-inch advertisement. I could peruse many magazines in the magazine shop downtown, quickly and easily without damaging the magazine while conducting my research.
I could quickly turn to the back pages of the magazine, where most of the small ads were placed and give them a quick once-over to critique their layout and design. Every once and a while I would hit the mother-lode and discover a magazine loaded with one-inch ads with captivating headlines and keywords, “Wa-hoo!” That’s the magazine I would spend my paper-route money on.
In junior high, I published my first co-op advertising tabloid enabling to exercise and hone my skills, while watching my dad pour over full page ad copy to promote his import/export business, my attention continued to be focused on brief, small ads (even today, I don’t think we see eye-to-eye on advertising use of space).
Also a musician and fan of independent singers/songwriters, in a high school entrepreneurial effort, I used my skills to promote local performance artists. This expanded into developing my own ad agency, and when it expanded to nationwide, it became too much for me to handle.
In my early teaching/training endeavors (mostly religious in nature) I wrote and printed my own books, workbooks and training manuals. Later in life, while in the sound recording industry, there was a need for good album art production (not far removed from matchbook cover art) so I enrolled in college focusing on graphic arts to further my skills.
As I continued to evolve, I found myself involved in a number of projects in self-help and brick-and-mortar enterprises, I was able to utilize my tiny ad skills to maximize advertising dollars while expanding the reach of both kinds of projects that I was involved in as well as those of my clients.
I still believe that small space advertising can help the promotional efforts of an ongoing business if crafted for maximum exposure and minimal cost.