Monday, January 4, 2021

Join the Galactic Legions

I don't pretend to understand a great deal about advertising. In fact, I am regularly baffled by the approaches taken in many ad campaigns. A good case in point is this full-page advertisement that appeared on the pages of Dragon in late 1982 and throughout 1983.

TSR's Star Frontiers distinguishes itself for its excellent black and white art, thanks in no small part to the illustrations of Larry Elmore (whose technical brilliance, I've long argued, is a better fit for sci-fi than for fantasy). Yet, the ad reduces the prominence of Elmore's cover art and pairs a bland, generic illustration with cartoonish graphic design. In addition, the text of the advertisement says next to nothing about Star Frontiers itself or the game's setting (there are no "Galactic Legions," for example). 

I presume the writer of the ad was attempting to riff off military recruitment posters of the era, which is a tried and true – if unimaginative – advertising technique. But, if you're going to go that route, why wouldn't you put Elmore's art front and center and use text that actually reflects the content of the game? As I said, I don't pretend to understand the ways of advertising. It's possible, I suppose, that there were very good reasons for producing the ad in this way, but, if so, I can't imagine what they would be.

9 comments:

  1. That looks like a Willingham piece. And being that Willingham (and Dee and Roslof) were my all time fave TSR artists, and I would only come to appreciate Larry Elmore in the past decade or two, I've no issue with the ad there.

    I'm guessing this was more of an attempt to ride on the coattails of Star Wars, especially with the final picture coming out within several months.

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  2. It might have been it was a piece of commissioned artwork that was never going to be used in the final product. But you are right, the cover of the boxed set was the best advertisement for the game.

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  3. I think they were going for art that matched the comic book style of the D&D advertisements that ran in magazine and comics back then.

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    1. That's an astute observation. I had no considered that!

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    2. This ad actually was in comics back in the day. I wasn't much of an RPG player back then but I did read comics and I remember that ad well

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  4. Considering the Sathar were originally going to be a fifth playable race before the Higher-Ups said "This game needs Space-Orcs", the Galactic Legions might have been a hold-over from the "Alien Worlds" development period.

    But then again, TSR's marketing department was always out-of-step on everything TSR did.

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  5. It also has a very 80's Saturday morning cartoon vibe to it.

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  6. I like how the cartoon figures match the Elmore cover character. The cartoon is what was promised and the Elmore was reality.

    Played a ton of Star Frontiers back in the day loved all the cardboard chits and fold out maps.

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  7. Most likely Elmore was paid out the "art budget" and this was paid for out of the "advertising budget." Not an uncommon practice.

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