a historian’s defense of advertising

I can’t believe I’m writing this, because advertising annoys me just about as much as the rest of you. Sure, I appreciate the occasional humorous or clever ad, but not after the hundredth time and they are few and far between.
But as someone who spends a good deal of time researching business and community history in the 18th and 19th centuries, ads in newspapers and city directories are an essential part of my research - and I unhesitatingly love these ads. They provide information about a specific company and its community, available products and technological advances, consumer taste, pricing, standards of language, artwork, and printing, and the list goes on.
You get the idea! These ads - print, of course - help illustrate earlier times and give us the histories of the businesses that sustained communities and families generations ago (and some of them are still with us, which is even more fun).
How does this apply to your business?
I would humbly suggest that you put yourself in the shoes of a researcher 50 years from now, in 100 years. What do you want them to know about your business, and where will they be able to find the information?
We have no way of knowing how people will search for and retrieve information in 100 years, but it’s safe to assume that someone will invent software to convert how we store information today into future formats.
So, in your business files, why not keep an archive of all of the ways in which your business tells its story? After all, you want control of your story, and someone will be interested.
Examples of your archive’s content include:
? A history of your business
? Mission and vision statements
? Stored or printed versions of your Web site each time you make significant changes
? Your annual report, newsletter, brochure, and other marketing publications
? Event materials — print and video
? Clippings
? Examples of ads in all formats
? Photographs of key people and your physical plant
? Examples of your products
? Internal documents that define and explain your business, including legal documents.
Trust me when I tell you, if EVERY business kept such a file and deposited it in an information center such as your local public library, business library, or historical society, my job as a historian would be so much easier!
Why not start your archive now, and identify where you will keep it on deposit. Then update it every five years.
You will be in charge of telling your story now, and in the future. Interesting to contemplate!