Mass advertising emerged with the advent of more efficient printing processes that handled larger runs, improved print quality and supported wider circulation. Print ad revenues in Canada ranged from $16 to 20 million a year between 1932 and 1945, and then soared as World War II came to an end. Ads appeared in dailies, journals, magazines, theatre programs and other publications.
In the 1920s and 1930s, new technical possibilities favoured the expansion of advertising and the development of more clear-cut methods. The editors of La Clé d’Or, Quebec’s first advertising trade magazine, advised advertisers to run newspaper ads large enough to be noticed by readers and to produce the desired impression. In the editorial section, they said, an ad could be very small because readers typically read those pages from beginning to end. But in the classified ad section, a fairly large size was needed to catch the attention of busy or indifferent readers. For publications in smaller formats, the Clé d’Or experts recommended full-page or even two-page ads for best results. Most of the ads in the Musée de Lachine’s Dawes Black Horse collection are full-page size and come from magazines.
Today, breweries have shifted their advertising to other platforms, including television, sports events and the Internet. With the exception of beer industry trade publications, dailies and magazines have been abandoned.
Layout in Black Horse Ads
In the 19th century, as seen in the example below, ads were laid out in columns of text, or copy. Gradually, they came to include images and to span the columns to fill half or all of a page. Although the text still predominated, it was supported by the image.
The choice of a black Percheron to illustrate the Black Horse ads was ideal, of course. All it took was one colour in addition to black (ink or coloured paper) and a short phrase to create a visual impact. The Percheron image needed no embellishment: it was strong, simple and effective. When the horse was set in a landscape, for instance, the illustration was in colour.
The product itself – beer – rarely appears in the collection’s ads. Admittedly, the brewing industry was tightly regulated in this respect. On the other hand, some of the ads feature the consumer. Close-ups of a face or upper body fill half the space, either in a medallion or standing out against a white background. These ads convey the Black Horse drinker’s satisfaction.
In terms of style and composition, the Black Horse ads were rather traditional, especially considering the artistic trends of the day. But the look was somewhat more modern when the layout borrowed from film or comic strips. One group of ads from 1941-1942 evokes a strip of film and movie screens, whereas the four-panel D’j’ever? series puts a cartooning talent to work for Black Horse.
Visibility and Competition: Impact of Print Media
According to the viewing statistics supplied by National Breweries for 1948, nearly 1,300,000 Montréal readers saw a Black Horse ad in a daily or a magazine that year. Dow beer (a brand belonging to the same brewery consortium) reached only 750,000 Montréal readers. Print ads for Boswell (another consortium brand) were limited almost exclusively to Quebec City, where the beer was produced.
In Canada, Black Horse beer was advertised mostly in daily papers, twice as much as in magazines, where it was still 10 to 20 times more present than Dow. In fact, National Breweries ran few ads in magazines except to promote Black Horse.
Despite the heavy investment in newspaper advertising, almost all of the ads in the Musée de Lachine collection come from magazines. This is because newsprint is inferior to magazine stock, does not age well and was often reused for various purposes.
annonces_blackhorse_aux_États-unis.pdf: The Review. Published in the interests of the employees, vol. 12, no. 1, January 1949, The National Breweries Limited, Montréal, Que., pp. 8-9.