The ad in the accompanying image is all over the internet. Naturally it’s on the usual Pinterest and Tumblr millions, as well as paper mills and other plagiarism assistance websites. It’s also on blogs about advertising techniques, blogs about the tasteless past, referenced by traditional media outlet web presences, sites trolling for general humor, and even re-purposed to help other people sell insurance or to help even more people sell insurance. And way more than that.
It looks pretty authentic and the visual art looked appropriate for 1980s newsprint ads, but the tone seemed old than 1983 to me so I decided to check into it. It was surprisingly difficult. Everyone gives it provenance based on the date which is reference (“But tomorrow, Friday, June 24th, 1983…”) None of the sites which use the ad seem to have further information than that – nothing about the campaign itself, where all this ad ran, how many other days was this theme used, nothing that actually cited a source for the ad. Even the “serious” media generally who use this image have an immediate source that traced back to a private citizen’s blog where it was posted without any primary source or provenance.
I thought that perhaps the company itself might have information in an FAQ on their website, but the company does not exist as such anymore, and I could not find any traces of company statements.
So I went back to the ad itself, looking for a clue.
In corner cut-out that a reader could use to mail for additional information, there was a name: Peter Kelly. Some searching linked him to an executive position as director marketing with Albany Life Assurance in at least 1983 – 1985 (Modern Publicity: 1 January 1983, 1 January 1984, 1 January 1985). The clue was thanks to a new resource I’d not run into before:
Using their tool I found that the 1 July 1984 issue of Graphis included this ad among its a round-up ads from the previous year given special attention for being effective, if undisciplined in their use of sex and violence. I still don’t have much context for the ad, but this increasingly supports the its authenticity. It’s not so far off in tone of other Peter Kelly ads for Albany Life in general tone and concept, though it’s certainly the most extreme of them.