A couple of years ago, GPS units were the hot Christmas gift, and the category looked like it had some staying power. But that growth trajectory has taken a detour, thanks to smart phones like Motorola's Droid and Apple's iPhone, which contain GPS navigation functions. That's not the first time that technology has turned a category on its head. Below are eight cases of product categories that used to receive substantial advertising but are now mostly or totally obsolete.
—Posted by Todd Wasserman
1. Seat belts. Before the Highway Safety Act and the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act were passed in 1966, seat belts weren't standard in cars. As a result, an advertising market existed both for makers of seat belts and for repair shops, which made money installing them. There were several makers of seat belts, as well as an American Seat Belt Council, which bestowed its blessing on those that fit the highest safety standard. Hence, this 1962 ad for Irvin Seat Belts pointed out that the belts exceed all standards for strength and safety and "not all seat belts do."
2. Typewriters. Typewriter sales peaked in the mid-1950s, when Smith-Corona sold 12 million of the machines in the last quarter of 1953. Since then, of course, devices like the one on which you're reading this now have made them a relic. Still, about 400,000 or so typewriters are sold per year these days, not enough to support much advertising.
3. Long-distance telephone calling. Between the time the first long-distance call was made, in 1951, until roughly 2000, long distance was a thriving business, supporting hundreds of millions in advertising dollars. Then, wireless came in and no longer distinguished between local and long distance. Landline service providers soon dropped it as well. These days, you see lots of ads for wireless service, but none for landlines, unless they're also providing DSL service.