Advertisements, as a primary source for research, provide a view into the culture and business of another time. Advertisements are a valuable source for more than history research; business, women’s studies, African American studies, psychology, and many other disciplines will find insights in advertisements.
To effectively use advertisements researchers need to ask a series of questions:
-Who is the audience for the ad?
-Is the ad targeted at new or existing customers?
-Does the ad have an emotional appeal?
-How does the ad attract attention?
Daniel Pope goes into great detail about using advertisements for research in Making Sense of Advertisements (PDF) from the History Matters website. This is a great resource to share with your students and researchers.
You can have fun with historical advertisements too. Advertisements from the turn of the 20th century for appliances, "beauty treatments," and vacation getaways often seem comical from today’s perspective. For a smile and a touch of nostalgia, check out the Vintage Advertisements board on ProQuest's Pinterest page.
The advertisement on the right is from Vogue 33.25 (Jun 24, 1909): 1114, The Vogue Archive.