Trek Artifacts : Star Trek Ads and Promos
PUBLISHED: April 8, 2007
Ads and Promos
Let’s face it aside from being an amazing group of TV series and movies, Star Trek is one of the biggest commercial franchises around. The sheer amount of merchandise that the show has generated over the last 40 years easily outstrips all other aspects of Trek, as the volume of merchandise far exceeds the number of hours of filmed Trek produced, probably by a margin of 10 to 1 (or greater). We’re talking way beyond the realm of “standard” merchandising like toys, games, comics, t-shirts, and trading cards here. We’re talking about stuff like: Star Trek credit cards, coin sets, pins, bed sheets, wall clocks, plates, telephones, drinking glasses, belt buckles, stamps, models, records, Christmas tree ornaments, personal checks, bath towels, coffee mugs (and coffee), and on and on and on into infinity.... Humans may not use money by the 23rd century but they sure do now and there’s more than enough Trek items to bleed a fan dry several times over.
And in order to sell it to the fans it needs to be advertised. Heavily. Magazines like Starlog, Sci-Fi Universe, Sci-Fi Entertainment, and the various official publications are chock full of saturation advertising for Trek merchandise. Dozens of catalog specializing in merchandise for Star Trek–and other sci-fi & fantasy “franchises”–have been produced over the years. Back in the late 1980's when the Star Trek Official Fan Club Magazine was a thin 20-page fanzine, it featured a 4-6 page black & white catalog for merchandise. Today, the Star Trek Communicator (which replaced the Official Fan Club Mag) has a 10-20 page, full-color catalog as it’s centre section–“Quark’s Bazaar”–in addition to the 20 or so pages of advertising dispersed around the magazine. Many of the genre-oriented magazines published over the last twenty years would probably have folded fast without the revenue from Star Trek advertising.
But there’s all sorts of advertising out there as well as ways to advertise and promote Star Trek. Advertisements for the various series have been regularly featured in TV Guide and local newspaper TV sections over the years. Anyone who’s been to a Star Trek convention during the last twenty years and filled out one of those “comment cards” or raffle entry cards–and thus wound up on every sci-fi oriented mailing list in the galaxy–can attest to the relentless bombardment of direct-mail advertising. How many of you joined one or more of the Columbia House video clubs for VHS cassettes back in the day? And how about the new Direct TV television ads with William Shatner in his movie-era uniform verbally touting the satellite provider inter-cut with footage from the Star Trek movies? The television series’ and feature films may be gone but Star Trek lives forever...in advertising!
For those of you that find my tone somewhat cynical...well, mass commercialization of anything can become annoying–if not downright offensive–even if it involves something you love and enjoy. In any format Star Trek costs a lot of money to make, in some cases more than the studio can count on being returned in the near future, and merchandising is one way to offset those costs and maybe make a little money to boot. To do it they need to advertise on a large national–and international–scale in order to reach as many of us as possible. The result is a volume of advertising that now stands on it’s own as a topic of discussion, perhaps even a culture of it’s own to be explored, researched, and recorded.
This section of Trek Artifacts will look at a wide variety of advertising, not just in terms of products, but in terms of formats as well. All aspects of the Trek Universe will be represented as the posts won’t necessarily follow any particular order. For starters we’re going to be posting mostly magazine ads and promotional material from the 1980's to the present, with a little 1970's stuff thrown in as we find it. Many of the ads and the items they promote will be familiar to you; some won’t be; some will surprise you and some may even shock you. Whatever your pleasure, you’ll probably see an advertisement for it here.