authoritative, wise, and highly influential pronouncements

450 year-old painting is world’s first ever advert for Tag Heuer

In Business, Culture on October 20, 2009 at 08:24
branding at its most subtle

Cosimo I de Medici, Duke of Florence: the master of subtle branding

Advertising and marketing experts are today celebrating finding what they think to be the world’s oldest Tag Heuer advert after uncovering a 450 year-old painting of a man sporting what appears to be a very early incarnation of one of the brand’s watches.

The painting has been in the Science Museum’s collection for 33 years after being acquired from a private donor, and has only just seen light of day. Art experts advised after a thorough examination that the painting depicts Cosimo I de Medici, Duke of Florence, holding a golden timepiece, bearing a discreet Tag Heuer logo.

Marketing experts believe the picture, painted by renaissance master Maso da San Friano around, might be one of the very first examples of third party endorsement on record.  Professor Paul McNichols, a noted academic in the field of advertising and marketing said: “I believe this represents a significant breakthrough in terms of the history of advertising. Look at the Duke’s stance in the picture – it’s laid back, relaxed, carefree, and yet somehow all the while drawing attention to the product,” enthused McNichols.

“These are text book traits of an expert model even on modern day advertising photoshoots. It’s just a pity that he was wearing a woman’s blouse, which, to be fair, ruins the whole effect completely.”  McNichols went on to explain that the advert would most likely have been hung in prominent places in villages, the Royal Court or huts that passed as primitive motorway service stations, where passers by would stop in their horse and cart for a bowl of gruel and a mug of ale.

“The branding in the painting is extremely subtle – you may not even be able to notice it unless  you really squint, but real conieusseurs of the time would be able to instantly tell that the watch was a Tag Heuer.  Also, it probably helped that it was probably only one of three watches in existence, so you really have to question why they bothered advertising it at all, but that’s a different matter.”

A spokesperson for Tag Heuer said the company was delighted with the find. “Cosimo was a great patron of science and technology, or so we understand and so we are pleased that he was chosen to pioneer our very first marketing campaign. I suppose it would have been nice if they could have got the strapline in the painting somewhere, but then I suppose you can’t have everything.”

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