Selling the Computer to Business in 1960

Video of the Month from Hagley Digital Archives - "The Computer Comes to Marketing" (1960)
Friday, September 15, 2017

Our Video of the Month for September is "The Computer Comes to Marketing." Released in 1960, the film promotes the use of computers in business with a particular emphasis on the effects of digital processing for sales, marketing, research, customer service, and distribution.

The film is from a Hagley Library collection titled Sperry Corporation, UNIVAC Division photographs and audiovisual materials.

This particular film was sponsored by Fortune Films in connection with a series of articles in Fortune magazine about “electronic data processing.” The storyline is built around a group of businessmen debating the "computer problem" in order to decide if they should purchase a new computer for their business. The film cleverly depicts the pros and cons of purchasing a computer while describing in detail the practical uses of computers for businesses during the era.

The case studies presented in the film are based on actual situations researched by the magazine. As one of the leading producers of computers at the time, it's clear when watching the film why the Sperry Corporation would have had a copy of it in their files.

An article in Business Screen magazine (August 1960), summarized the film this way:

“The film presents insight into many successful computer applications in the whole range of marketing -- from production control as is is related to distribution, through inventory control, improved customer service and sales forecasting - and right down to the better-armed salesman, superior market analysis, and better basis for management’s decision-making”

Wilding Inc. produced the film for Fortune Films. Wilding. Founded in 1927, the company was headquartered in Chicago with additional offices in New York, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Detroit in 1960. During that era they were one of the largest industrial film producers.

In 1958, the Chicago Tribune reported that Wilding made an estimated 125 films during the year. They also reported that 500 to 600 industrial movie producers made 5,000 films during 1958. A clear indication of the popularity of the medium to market products and ideas when "The Computer Comes to Marketing" made its debut two years later.


“Chicago Part of Film World,” Chicago Tribune, 22 June 1958

“Computers Role in Marketing theme of New Fortune Film.” Business Screen Magazine. August 1960

Kevin Martin is the Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Audiovisual Collections & Digital Initiatives at Hagley Museum and Library.