For my final project for NYU-Steninhardt's 'Topics in Globalization: Commodities' Class--also known as the coffee class--, me and my classmate Miriam García decided to do something a bit different. Instead of writing one more paper, we decided to put together a website. That's how the Pouring Coffee Ads project was born.
If pictures are worth a thousand words, advertisements are worth even more. That is why we decided to create a digital archive of print coffee advertisements in the US. The goal of our project was to exemplify how these ads reflected what we learned in class. By using a series of image archives, we selected a sample of coffee ads from mid 20th century and forward. After that first selection, we divided the ads in a series of categories: gender, labor, aspirational, and ways of consumption.
Our research was definitely a good way to materialize what we learned in class throughout the semester. Firstly, we learned that the social, economical and cultural life of coffee in the United States can be seen in advertising and marketing.
Major changes occurred during the 20th century that had an impact in the way that coffee is consumed, from the beginning of an era mass industrialization, wars and other international conflicts, new technologies and shifting power and gender dynamics. The best way to appreciate these changes is through advertisement, our research proves that as coffee consumption has changed, the advertisement and marketing strategies had to adapt. Besides adapting, coffee advertisement has something for everybody, from cool kids, to the sophisticated bachelor, the social responsible community to the big family who wakes up early. There is no way that each consumer today is not targeted by coffee advertisement.
Furthermore, we also discovered that coffee ads come from different fronts, it could be from the usual suspects, big transnational companies, retail stores and local shops, to governments and NGOs. Finally, our four categories are not exclusive to particular coffee consumption industries. For example, we found aspirational ads for big companies (like Nescafe), retail stores (Starbucks), and NGOs (Oxfam). We can conclude that all marketing tactics and strategies are related and interconnected. We hope that whoever reads our analysis will be able to identify the different elements that are part of a coffee ad.