Ad cards

If there was ever a misleading description, this is it. We know, people associate “ad cards” with unsolicited junk mail. We understand this. But there is so much more to an advertising postcard, so many types, and so many reasons for printing, distributing, and collecting them. What’s so special about these?

To answer that, look backward at advertising 100+ years ago. Many of the companies and even the products themselves have disappeared. (Typewriters, anyone?) These ad cards are marketing tools, windows into daily life, and tell a lot about culture, sociology, and taste. And they’re a lot easier to save than whole magazines. Here are examples of what we see in Hong Kong alone:

1. All the unsolicited stuff that comes in the daily mail. We put a lot of these cards into the site at the beginning, and have mostly stopped now unless the card’s design is spectacular or distinctive in some way. Frankly, these cards don’t sell well. That’s OK. As time goes by, we can watch contexts change right along with prices and shops–many of which are gone now, in a city where anything more than a year old is really OLD.

2. Social services organisations, Government or not, use ad cards here to promote their activities. These get mailed to households or are available in racks, usually near restaurants.

3. Hong Kong has an annual Arts Festival crammed with local and international performances. Many of these appear on individual postcards.

4. Art galleries advertise their exhibitions by using paintings or the production from individual artists, sculptors, and so on. If we want “art postcards” in Hong Kong, they almost certainly need to be these. Putting it differently, if you want to see what local artists are doing, look for the ad cards.

5. Then there is a genre of ad card that doesn’t appear to be selling anything at all apart from the company that prints the cards. We like these. One of our favourites is a great black-and-white view of the Hong Kong Island skyline; the caption on the back of the card just says “Black and White”.

6. We also see contemporary cards with reproductions of old ads, though our general view is that it’s better to try to find the original versions.

And as some cards around here say “Not for Sale,” and we want to respect copyright and not infringe, at least we wait for the event to be finished before listing a card so it becomes historical. We can deal with copyrights by cutting out parts of the picture and relying on descriptions alone, but other sites avoid doing this, and until it becomes a real problem we will just let the cards be there unless there is need to remove them. Meanwhile, check our “Advertising” theme category and see examples of everything we’ve mentioned. We should print our own postcards … hmmm …