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Notwithstanding fears of unprecedented ad creep – the invasion of sales messages into both private and public spaces where they had previously been kept at bay – there was no period in the past century when marketers were not aggressively pressing their messages into new areas and formats.Saskatchewan Wheat Pool Calendar

It is hard to think of any flat-surfaced paper product that has not been printed with promotional messages. Among the most familiar are blotters, bookmarks, protective book covers, school scribblers, calendars, buttons and the backs of event tickets.

One of the most curious examples of prairie promotion held by the University of Saskatchewan Library is a fifty piece set of stereographic cards distributed by the T. Eaton Company in 1905. Stereographs, an early form of 3-dimensional photography, were produced in enormous quantities in the late 19th century. They usually featured Bible stories, celebrated attractions, and current news events. The remarkable Eaton’s card set features photographs of the company’s immense Winnipeg store, including many views of its retail, mail-order and production divisions.   The cards were intended to brand Eaton’s as the region’s leading purveyor of quality goods.The T. Eaton Company Limited Winnipeg Store [stereographs]

Outdoor advertising is one of the fastest growth areas of advertising. Large scale outdoor advertisements including painted wall signs and billboards mounted on buildings can be discovered in many early photographs of prairie towns. Early Canadian billboards usually measured 9 x 28 feet and were typically produced by pasting together 24 sheets of printed paper.  Today’s highway billboards are much bigger and consist of fewer individual sheets.

Welcome to Tisdale:.Land of Rape and Honey. Billboards are placed in areas of high pedestrian and/or vehicular traffic. On the prairies they are often constructed adjacent to highways to advertise the availability of food, fuel and accommodation in nearby towns. Since billboards are passed very quickly their advertisements must catch the viewer’s attention immediately and cannot contain a lot of text or complex imagery.

Critics attack the size and concentration of billboards as a particularly intrusive form of visual pollution that produces little social benefit. Their high visibility has made them a favored target for ‘alteration’ or vandalism by activists dedicated to the practice of culture jamming.

Street level advertising, including ad-covered furniture, garbage receptacles, bus shelters and mobile billboards, is now a feature of the prairie urban landscape. Public transit systems have sought to increase revenue by expanding advertising from traditional overhead interior cards and exterior sign boards, to completely covering their vehicles in wrap-around images.

I think I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Indeed, unless the billboards fall
I’ll never see a tree at all.
- Ogden Nash ( 1902-1971). American poet.
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