About Attempts to Use Commercial Advertising in the USSR in the 50- 60s of XX Century

by Moroz, I.

Moroz I (2014). About Attempts to Use Commercial Advertising in the USSR in the 50- 60s of XX Century. In Young Scientist USA (p. 202). Auburn, WA: Lulu Press.

Abstract. The paper presents a historical survey of the use of commercial advertising in the Soviet Union in the 50 - 60s of XX century based on the analysis of archive records. The basic types of advertising and its potential applications are distinguished. Main successes and challenges in the development of this sector of the national economy are laid down.

Keywords: advertising, means of commercial advertising, radio, movie and television advertising, gas-discharge advertising, themed evenings.


Although trade advertising was used in all periods of the history of the USSR, the need for it in the postwar years was past as assortment of goods produced was extremely narrow and there was a constant commodity deficiency. Advertising was neglected even in the early 50s of XX century, because the goods were produced insufficiently and people snapped up everything that appeared on store shelves. It was only in the mid-50s, when the output of products was increased, that people buying them began to think about quality, materials, comfort and fashion. In addition, commodities whose function was previously unknown and new materials appeared and people needed more information about them. No less important was the economic aspect of informing consumers about products, their features and benefits so that, affecting the demand, to change its trend, facilitate production planning and commodity marketing. Since that time, advertising in Soviet trade has become an integral part thereof [7].

Organizational issues of commercial advertising in the Soviet Union were tackled by union and republic ministries of trade, as well as Central Union of Consumer Cooperatives that studied and coordinated advertising activities in trade. All-Union Commercial Advertising Association at the Ministry of Trade of the USSR (“Soyuztorgreklama”) was organized to that end.

However, despite the importance of the mission to improve the quality of advertising and to strengthen its influence on the sale of goods, the staff of “Soyuztorgreklama” was small. So, on October 1, 1965 chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers’ State Committee for Trade A.I. Struevoy approved staffing table of the All-Union Commercial Advertising Association “Soyuztorgreklama” in the amount of 51 persons. Provision was made for the following structure:

Administration - 7 people.

Department of commercial advertising - 5 people.

Department of advertising methodology and aesthetics - 5 people.

Department of movie, radio and television advertising - 6 people.

Department of print advertising, technical information and editing of Commercial advertising bulletin - 6 people.

Production and technical department - 5 people.

Supply and media distribution department - 4 people.

Planning and finance department - 4 people.

Accounting department - 4 people.

Maintenance department - 5 people. [10]

Republican ministry of trade and, in particular, the Republican office of commercial advertising “Rostorgreklama” coordinated this work in the RSFSR. This institution was established in 1958 to develop modern means of commercial advertising and exercise artistic supervision over advertising in the republic. With its own integrated plants and workshops in Moscow, Leningrad, Petrozavodsk, Sverdlovsk, Volgograd, Novgorod and Rostov, “Rostorgreklama” developed projects of new advertising means, reviewed, approved and manufactured the experimental prototypes of showcase equipment and mannequins.

Time of the advertising campaign also was of great importance: pre-holiday, seasonal, anniversary, devoted to exhibitions, opening of new stores, etc. Upon that, results of previous advertising work were taken into account: whether advertising campaigns were carried out earlier, how noticeable, reliable and effective advertising messages, packaging and product label were, whether drawings, text, color were used correctly.

The main types of commercial advertising in the Soviet Union in the beginning of the 60s were as follows [8]:

Table 1. Means of commercial advertising in the beginning of the 60s in the USSR

Types of advertising

Application site

Technical equipment

Pattern showcases

In the shop window

Inside the store

In the streets and in public places

Display stands


Dynamic installations

Gas discharge advertising

On the facade

Inside the store

In the street



Roof installations

Wall installations

Movie advertising

In the cinema

On television

In the shop window

Inside the store

In the street

Cinema film

Film commercial

Film transparency

Auditory advertising

On the radio and television

Inside the store

In the shop window

Announcer’s program


Gramophone record

Artistic advertising

Inside the store

In the street and in public places

On commercial motor vehicles



Advertising painting

Print advertising

In the shop window

Inside the store

In newspapers and magazines

In the street and in public places

On products


Reminder card

Inserted leaflet



Demonstration of new products

In the store showroom

In the store sales area

At entrance of the store


In the club and cinema

Clothing display on mannequins

Product application display

Product selling exhibition

In the store

In the club


Sale of goods in the most large variety with its demonstration


The most common type of advertising in the period under review was show-window advertising, as the Soviet Union had a large number of stores and other sales outlets. Retailers spent 25 % of advertising appropriations on window dressing [1].

Some general principles of window dressing which advertising business experts considered the most effective were formed in the USSR trade practice by the early 60s.

1. The shop window must be transparent and double sided, that is, sales area must be seen through it, and displayed trade samples must be seen equally well for passers-by on the street, and customers in the sales area.

2. Only products available for sale should be displayed in the shop window; it is possible to renew trade samples in the shop window more frequently, the displayed samples should have commodity price indicated.

3. Stands used for the placement of trade samples should be less noticeable, so they do not distract attention from the displayed products.

4. Panels and posters in the shop window are allowed only in the case when they are organically associated with displayed products and serve as a means of advertising these products.

5. The shop window should be well lit in the evening. [13]

To enhance the art quality of shop windows, show competitions were held in many cities of the country. The shop windows of the State department store, Central Universal Department Store, Bashmachok, Dom tkani, Detskiy mir, Moskva and others, Gostinyy Dvor in Leningrad, Elochka, Sputnik in Tomsk were recognized the most successfully dressed. The objective of such shows was to capture everything new, disseminate best practices and eliminate the deficienciesб because advertising business was beneath the mark even in the capital. Therefore, after 32 shops and 5 public catering facilities were checked by comrade Voskoboynikov, the following main weaknesses in the store design were recorded in the report on the inspection of advertising usage on Gorky Street dated November 04, 1965:

1. Dirty facades.

2. Lack of a common solution for all facility facades.

3. Poor condition of signage.

4. Out-of-date technical devices and equipment of shop windows.

5. Dirty openings and window glass.

6. Old-fashioned and low (non-professional) quality of window dressing and goods layout in shop windows.

7. Lack of advertising focus.

8. Unacceptably rare change of goods layout.

They (shop windows) remain at the very low physical, technical and aesthetic level. [9]

Print media such as leaflets, posters and inserts were the most common and long used in the Soviet Union. Popularity of leaflets was due to the fact that they could be easily sent to any point of advertising. Advertising publications were devoted mostly to new, little-known goods, and, in particular, to household products. For example, such leaflets advertised fur cleaning, polishes, fertilizers, pesticides, shoe care products, linen bluing and starching liquids.

Typically, advertising publications contained fairly complete description of the product and its pictures. The main features of goods were confirmed by good argument. In this regard, the experience of Moscow market “Mosovosch” is worth noticing, as it introduced more new kinds of vegetables and herbs into the product range. The market prepared and published in volume form a series of advertising leaflets “Customer Tips” on individual types of vegetables. Buyers found such free leaflets on the shelves of vegetable self-service stores, markets, they were put in bags with packaged products.

Radiobroadcasting has become a mass advertising medium in the 50- 60s of XX century, since radio enjoyed great popularity in the Soviet Union. However, the volume of advertising was still small: an average of 20 minutes a week on the first program of the central station from 7 to 8 am and from 7 to 8 pm. However, due to high tariffs, trade enterprises could not systematically fall back on radio as a means of advertising.

Due to the fact that these advertisements did not always keep pace with new supplies and excessive formalism in their use, this type of advertising did not produce the effect which the organizers expected. An example is the letter of head of the advertising firm “Rostorgreklama” T. Stepan’yants to chief of the Bryansk Regional Trade Administration Antsyforov N.A. containing texts of advertising to be recorded on magnetic tape, intended for in-store broadcasting. The same standard texts: “Margarine”, “Cheese”, “Squid”, “Elegant fabrics and fabrics for everyday costume”, “Sewing machines” were developed and distributed to many cities of the Russian Federation. The letter contained a reminder of the need to clarify the range of products available in the store and engage qualified speakers to record the texts. In addition, he recommended to avoid deliberate pathos and overextension. [3]

Advertising film making was a new business. Though the numbers of such films was growing, only 12 were shot in 1960. Some of them had a memorable story line, viewer’s interest was caught in a skillful way: “How will we look like tomorrow”, “Clock”, “Cameras”, “New shoe models”. But there were gray, boring movies as well. Advertising film hire was organized poorly. They were rarely shown in theaters before film show, as film distribution service imposed high fee for their demonstration. Circulations of many films were insufficient. Usually they were printed in an amount of 20-30 copies. 1-2 copies of each advertising film accounted for even such large cities as Moscow and Leningrad. The audience, certainly, saw them rarely [6].

Therefore the main task for this type of advertising was to improve the quality of film scripts, engage qualified specialists in work over them and increase their number.

If radio and movie advertising can be attributed to traditional types of advertising, television started to be used to familiarize consumers with new products and its properties in the mid-60s only. The advantages of TV advertising included its efficient response. For example, television advertising broadcast was made in the form of reportage from the place of manufacture of commodities or when new commercial facility or new forms of customer service were advertised - from the sales area of the store. Such advertising allowed viewers to clearly see the benefits of the newly opened commercial facility, appreciate the convenience of space planning, ensuring a better view and fast choice of products.

However, despite the obvious advantages of TV advertising, it was apparently underestimated in the 60s. Commercial advertising on the central television was reduced only to the broadcast of advertisements and episodic showing of commercial films. Thus, commercial advertising almost did not use wide capabilities of television in the 60s, since off-screen advertisements did not differ from broadcast of such advertisements over the radio, but a demonstration of advertising films (no more than 10 times a year) produced no perceptible effect.

Means of outdoor advertising were mainly billboards and posters in the Soviet Union. Their number has increased in the 50-60s but still was insufficient. Very often, billboards and posters were arranged improvidently. Billboards were rarely seen in subway stations, near railway and bus stations, large enterprises and institutions in the subways. The cities had insignificant number of colorfully decorated billboards with addresses of stores and description of basic goods available in these stores. Commercial organizations replaced obsolete designs of billboards with light modern designs, but they didn’t not care about fitting billboards organically into the interior of squares, avenues and streets often.

Since the early 60s gas-discharge advertising has received a large development effort. In addition to the impact on the consumer, this kind of advertising was important as a city decoration. Although artistic and technical level of gas-discharge advertising constantly increased, it had significant unsatisfactory features.

The main minus was that many gas discharge signs looked beautiful only in the evening and were very unattractive during the day: letters were rude and difficult to read, wiring was not hidden. A serious drawback of gas-discharge advertising was its low quality (it failed quickly and used a very limited number of colors). In addition, gas-discharge commercial advertisements lacked dynamism. [14]

Due to the proliferation of advanced commodity sale methods (total or partial self-servicing, trade on samples, sale through automatic devices, sale of goods in original packaging), advertising on packages, labels and products was becoming increasingly important in the 50- 60s. And although this area enjoyed some success, but still industrial enterprises neglected the manufacture of packaging and labels quite frequently. Their design was often nondescript, gray, packs were glued up bad, so they quickly became unglued. Quality and design of labels on cans and bottles also often gave rise to unfavorable criticism. [4]

At the same time, the first attempts of advertising campaigns were made. This form was the most difficult, as it required careful study and analysis of consumer demand, long preparation, cash expenditures, consolidation of qualified personnel, use of various types of advertising. For example, when it was detected that sparkling wine production exceeded the demand, extensive advertising campaign was conducted. More than 14 million of leaflets, 4 million of inserts, about 1 million of greeting cards, 2 million of posters, 650,000 of desk calendars, branded wrapping paper, several movies, etc. were produced for its implementation. More than 3 million rubles were spent on this campaign. As a result, champagne sales problem was solved [12].

Advertising campaigns included book fairs, pre-school-season weeks, selling exhibitions, etc. This kind of promotional activities were carried out using mobile installations (showcases, stands, billboards) in rural areas and large enterprises and using fixed installations - in public places (railway stations, trade fairs, stadiums, parks). [5]

Analysis of the above types of commercial advertising allows us to highlight main problems in this area. First of all, this is lack of financing of advertising activities and inefficient use of available funds.  The level of commodity advertising expenditure was low in the USSR and constituted about 0.02 % of sales volume. In such situation, funds for advertising were not planned and the efficiency of their use was not controlled. [11]

In addition, the cost of commercial advertising were first included in the regional reports on trade and public catering expenses only in 1965 and constituted 0.03 % of warehouse, depot and retail turnover in Bryansk region this year [2].

It should be mentioned that the improvement of commercial advertising required skilled professionals – advertising specialists. However, not single educational institution in the Soviet Union trained artists - window dressers in the beginning of the 60s. They were supposed to have basic knowledge in the field of art, drawing, fonts, as well as in the field of economics to be able to practically address the issues of attracting and using various advertising media. Short-term training of vendors, store managers and interior designers in advertising was not enough.

Trade schools and technical schools had to start training specialists - decorators with 3-4-year educational program. However, this task was not accomplished in 50-60s.

Another major obstacle is almost complete lack of material and technical base for the manufacture of advertising media. There were neither special printing facilities for the manufacture of advertising media, nor conditions for a systematic demonstration of the best examples of commercial advertising to trade personnel.

Thus, based on the above, we can conclude that commercial advertising was used in the Soviet Union in the 50-60s. However, despite the fact that some of its types were popular, most of them faced problems which were solved in the USSR only in the subsequent historical period.



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  2. State Archive of Bryansk region (hereinafter - SABR). F. 2545. List 1. D. 153. Sheet 389.
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