The Trombone in Advertising – 1

The Trombone in Advertising – 1

Advertising is a curious thing. When you think about it, advertising is designed to make us unhappy with what we have, and believe that we would be happier with something else. With this in mind, it’s no surprise a lot of people – like me – fast forward through all commercials when you watch a show on your DVR, or mute commercials in live TV, or have an ad blocker on your phone or tablet. I know what I want to purchase and where I want to get it; advertising rarely influences me to do something, especially to do something that I wouldn’t do without the ad.

But advertising is everywhere, even in the trombone world. Of course we’re all familiar with ads that are designed to sell trombones. Sometimes trombone ads use well-known players. Other ads tell you about new features, metal alloys, the latest valve and improvement. I don’t know anyone who buys a trombone just because she’s seen an ad – any sensible player will try before buying – but ads are out there, trying to persuade us that the trombone we’re playing just isn’t good enough for how good you are and, oh, how much better you’ll be if you’ll switch.

Recently, I’ve gotten interested in trombone advertising. But not advertising to sell trombones. What I have been finding interesting is how many ads have used the trombone to sell OTHER things. I’ve collected so many of these ads that I’m working on an article for the International Trombone Association Journal about them. I’ll be posting a few of them on my blog. Like the postcard above. It’s from the St. Louis Zoo. Great zoo! They make postcards so you’ll buy one, write a note to friend and tell them how great the zoo is, and mail it off. You’re part of the zoo’s advertising plan. So what did they put on this postcard? The elephants? Lions? Tigers? Bears? Nope. Chimpanzees playing musical instruments. Including a trombone.

Now, my students will tell you that sometimes, when I am talking to them about working on their soft playing and how valuable that is as a player, I often start by saying, “Someday they’re going to train a chimpanzee to play the trombone. But the chimp will not be able to play softly. Because the chimp doesn’t have a human soul.” I believe this absolutely to be true. But I did not know, until I bought this postcard, that in 1950, the St. Louis Zoo had trained a chimpanzee to at least hold a trombone and perhaps make a sound from it. A postcard is mute, but I very much doubt that this little chimp band was playing Mozart.

As I work on my article, I’ll be posting a few of these ads that use the trombone. And when you see one, draw your own conclusions. Why does the trombone appear in the advertisement? Is the trombone being used effectively to sell the product? Is the trombone put together and held correctly? And what subliminal messages are going forth from the use of the trombone. I have ads showing the trombone being used to sell clothing, cigarettes, beer, brassieres (yes, bras), tires, cheese, milk, paper products, movies and much more. More to come.