Pearle Vision isn’t the first retailer to base an advertisement around the librarian image. Their ever-present “Naughty Librarian” commercial aside, librarians have been used to hock just about everything. As Kathrin Dodds states in her 2009 presentation titled Advertising the Librarian Image: Stereotypical depictions of librarians in advertising:
For decades, the image of the librarian has been used to sell everything from cars to chewing gum, shampoo to vibrators and even anti-diarrheals! Whether the portrayal is of the dowdy version or the closet sexpot, advertisers are banking on the perception of the image of the librarian to sell their wares.
The various librarian stereotypes are so recognizable, they need little introduction or explanation, making them perfect fodder for magazine spreads or 20-second television spots. If like me you’re a fan of Mad Men, you know that creating a good advert is all about selling the Big Idea. As long as you make your audience connect with something – usually a desire – chances are they will want to buy it. Librarians are therefore used in a variety of ways: sometimes they are stealthily sexy, attractive and desirable, which means that if you – the consumer – get that thing that makes the librarian sexy, attractive, etc.,, you will become like them – or better yet, you’ll attract these secret sexpots. 1960s ad. “Loves books. Loves new ideas.” Loves reading in the nude.
Ad for The Library in NYC’s East Village, complete with “sassy-pants bartendresses“
Other times, librarians are shown in a negative and/or comedic light. Dowdy, bun-wearing, shushing old lady librarians with a penchant for picking on noisy patrons. Old fashioned, the opposite of desirable, and completely unapproachable. Even if such a character is present in an ad for two seconds, the effect is profound: librarians are bad news, and you should do anything in your power to not piss them off.
Sony’s Digital Reader, sexier than a librarian. This is of course an inverse of the two previous ads, in which a librarian is not sexy – but a hunk of plastic is
What other librarian adverts or commercials can you think of? Feel free to post links in the comments!