I've always been fascinated by history — building connections from the past to the present has great value to me. In school, I remember reading about 19th century abolitionists and explorers as well as crooked robber barons with long-enduring legacies. I turned in biographical reports on Frederick Douglass, P. T. Barnum and George Washington Carver. As a young artist, I was captivated by our family's giant old dictionary with its engravings of animals, architecture and laughably obsolete inventions.
A few years ago, I stumbled upon a delightfully ridiculous advertisement from the late 1800s. A heavily-mustached character named Dr. Batty peers through the page with eyes that denote unwavering confidence in his product — cigarettes for asthma patients!?
In an era a quack medicine and no regulation except the possibility of being tarred and feathered, it's easy to think these cigarettes had no value and even caused harm. I can only imagine what herbs, spices or twigs were wrapped up in their paper cylinders. Perhaps our Victorian friend's product was genuinely helpful in some instances and his ad copy was just crudely written? Surely he never imagined his ad would be dissected on LinkedIn.
I saw Dr. Batty's image on shirts and other merchandise, but I wanted to take things to a new level. What if there had been a Victorian equivalent of the internet — what would his social media ad look and sound like?
The Creative Process
I sliced and diced an image of the poster in Photoshop and separated many pieces as transparent layers. The ad's imagery was a bit sparse, so I looked up old engravings of different characters, objects, animals and places and added them to the mix... What good is a Dr. Batty ad without actual bats? How about an antiquated diagram of the lungs and breathing passages? And what better means of delivering his message than an old phonograph?
I grabbed some "old-timey" piano music from incompetech.com, some record-player static noises and some dust & scratch film effects. For the narration, I ran my voice over through an early radio filter to make a tinny, mid-range sound. I added bats to the point of absurdity, including a nonchalant fruit bat enjoying slow intakes of Dr. Batty's epic mystery smoke.
This is my final result:
Hope you enjoyed it. It was a fun departure from my regular corporate work. If you ever want a vintage - or modern - ad in print, video or web, contact us! We also do voice overs!
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