Ad man in 1939: “Use your anniversary to increase sales.”

Just see what colleague Eva Ersson Åbom found in one of the archives here at the Centre for Business History in Stockholm:

A sales letter from Esselte Reklam, dated 15 Maj 1939, addressed to the CEO of a company named Tidbecks, which apparently is about to turn 100 years old. Esselte Reklam pitches their business: we want to help you with your anniversary publication. (See the letter below; and further down is also a translation into English.)

In other words: EXACTLY what we suggest to clients almost every day here at the Centre for Business History! (When we are not selling archive services, of course, which is the origin and foundation of our business.)

And the arguments used in 1939 could just as well been written by one of us today. It’s interesting to see, though, that the letter is signed by legendary ad man Stig Arbman, who a few years later would break out on his own to form Arbmans Annonsbyrå, an ad agency that came to lead the creative wave in the Swedish ad industry of the 1960s. I must say, it does feel good to know we are walking in the footsteps of giants.

Today we call it history marketing when companies actively use their own authentic history for marketing and sales. Read more here about how you can work with history marketing today.

Timeless sales pitch, signed Stig Arbman.

By the way, the letter contains so many finesses, that one might think was new just to uor time.

See for example how the title and last name of the recipient is pre-printed in the letterhead. (Hello there, database-merge-fields.) There are scotch tape remnants over the man’s hand, we’re guessing that there was a nice flower in some material. (Hello, today’s 3D-print-and-send-solutions.) And the context of an ad agency offering full-scale editoral services… well, hello all content-agencies of the world.


Here’s the letter in translation:

Stockholm, 15 May 1939

Hon. Manufacturer Herman Tidbeck
Firma J.H. Tidbeck, Stockholm

When a person celebrates a birthday, he may invite good friends for dinner, but when a company has an anniversary, you need more than a dinner – you want the celebration to be useful in for sales purposes.

In olden days, you would traditionally celebreate the occasion by publishing a dry anniversary monograph, with portraits of gentlemen on the board. Today, there are more profitable ways…

It appears that your company celebrates its centennial next year. You certainly wish to highlight this grand occasion in an original and sales-promoting way.  Let us therefore meet for a preliminary discussion. At your service, we offer staff skilled in anniversary advertising – that promotes sales.


Esselte Reklam
Stig Arbman.