So, let’s take a trip down memory lane and explore the wacky world of retro advertising. Trust us, you’ll be glad these bizarre ads are a thing of the past! Cheers to progress and leaving these amusing relics behind!
Sorry, I can’t promise this would be the last of those prejudiced vintage ads. In the 1950s, cultural ignorance still stretched to many countries. Stereotypes mainly spread because of ads. No matter where you go, there will be one stereotypical image of those who are Mexican, Puerto Rican, or South American. Those who design the art put on the cliched sombrero.
A perfect example of this malady is the ad for Merito Rum. They made a guy who wore a sombrero ride a donkey. Aside from the archetypal costume design, the ad showed the ignorance of those who worked behind the scenes. Why would they write a quote like that? There’s nothing funny about it; it's being so narrow-minded.
Women Can Open This Catsup Bottle
Strangely enough, even advertisements for aluminum bottle caps contain material of an adult nature but are free to be published and displayed in public. It’s hard to see how something like this was considered a pleasant way to advertise aluminum bottle caps, and we’re glad it’s not around anymore.
It’s kind of strange that more than 50 years ago, people thought that women are weaker and incapable of doing mundane tasks like opening bottles and that we need a strong man to...well...open a bottle, as most strong men do. While it’s true that we have trouble opening bottles occasionally, this isn’t only a problem exclusive to women. Sometimes it’s just that hard to twist that cap off! A Tutorial on How To Kick It with The Ladies
This Time It’s Coffee!
Nothing beats the smell of coffee in the morning. The perfect breakfast for the working man: eggs, bacon, bread, and a steaming hot cup of coffee with a hefty dash of....a feminine friend. We already know that ads of this kind were rampant in the earlier days, and this is yet another good example.
This specific ad plays on the idea that a wife only belongs in the house and that her sole purpose is to serve her husband at home and make his life as pleasing and comfortable as possible. Today, more and more women are realizing that they can do so much more than stay at home and that their lives don’t have to end after getting hitched.
America Wants You! (To Eat More Rice)
Obesity has been a problem in the United States, even in the 60s. American diet included potatoes that are high in carbohydrates, thus leading to weight gain that is hard to sweat off. The Rice Council of America published several advertisements to convince citizens to convert from potatoes to rice which is high in fiber and can help with weight problems. Now, this is a good cause; a healthier way of life is always something we should strive for whenever we can, but there are certain...questions about how they deliver this message to the public.
Their way of doing so? Claim that there are no such things as fat Chinese people. It’s true that rice is a healthier side dish than potatoes, but stereotyping a race and being culturally insensitive is definitely not the way to advertise your cause.
Unlucky Tiger Hair Wax
Whoever sees this ad can point out everything that’s wrong about it. To say the least, this hair wax ad is so creepy. What does a tiger have to do about hair wax? There seems to be a reverse role in this picture. The tiger is depicted as the hunter when it’s the other way around in reality. The poor animal is portrayed as a beast when in fact, humans are the ones who invade their territories.
If you think that there could be nothing worse...you are very wrong. Mounting the busts of the women on a wall is such a psycho thing to do. The male gaze exudes the misogynist mentality of the creators of this ad. This ad displays pure absurdity that it even has the guts to say, “Which one do you want?” It’s as if women are not given the choice to say no. Sorry, the gals aren’t naturally going for any guy who uses Lucky Tiger. Not so lucky now.
Women? Outside the Home? Impossible!
This Trans World Airlines ad was probably considered slightly feminist when it was created in 1954. Today, of course, it’s completely laughable. However, back in the 50s, it marked a change in how companies advertised to women in the US. The ad asked women, “Who says, ‘It’s a man’s world?’” as a way to appeal to “modern” women who had more social independence than ever before.
TWA lets women dream big and even consider traveling on their own. Without a man. Gasp! Can you even believe it?! This whole marketing gimmick is obviously ridiculous to anyone living in 21st-century America. Some women would even argue that traveling without a man is a million times better.
Come on, Baby, Light My Fire
Who knew lighter fluid could be so sexy? We certainly had no idea until we saw this 1948 advertisement for Ronson lighter fluid. Phew. It’s funny to see how obvious vintage ads were regarding who their target audience was. Ronson lighters aren’t for women. If that illustration is any indication, they’re only for suave, sexy men. Duh.
This flammable company was really out here, making all the average Joe’s think that carrying a Ronson lighter would make them irresistible to women far and wide. Heck, they might even get lucky in another way that’s only slightly implied in this ad. Although we do still see ads targeted at straight men in a similar way these days, it’s a lot more subtle than it was back in the 40s.
Before the turn of the century, ads of this sort were even more rampant than they are today, and it was socially acceptable to post insensitive and demeaning advertisements about anything that involved women and how they are somehow inferior to men. It can be seen in ads concerning laundry detergents, food helpers, etc. The worst part? Barely anyone said anything about it, not even women!
Today we’re more educated about the harmful social connotations of ads like this: A cigar is a cigar, one expensive stick of cancer-causing chemicals but let's forget about that, right? Women are obviously the bane of everyone’s existence. Then again, Kipling had been oppressed and demeaned by his own wife, so perhaps that’s where his thought process stemmed from. Or perhaps it was his wife’s way of showing him he’s wrong.
Carsual’s Horoscope Pants
We’re not exactly sure what’s happening in this advertisement, but we know it’s specifically made to sell these horrendous horoscope slacks. According to the ad, these are a pair of “action” pants. Whatever your agenda is, I’m sure it’ll be a lot more fun with a colorful pair of slacks!
The suggestive posing of the woman behind implies that these fancy slacks also serve as chick magnets. Seriously? What is it with advertisements for slacks and the absolute need to insinuate that these pants will get the ladies’ heads turning? Nonetheless, these screen-printed cotton and polyester blend guarantees that these pair of pants are styled for action!
So Fresh, So Kool
This penguin spraying mouthwash straight into his open beak looks absolutely insane. This ad for Kool cigarettes from the 1930s is arguing that smoking a cigarette is good for you if you feel under the weather. Why? Because their cigarettes have fresh, clean menthol in them! Forget Vicks VapoRub. It’s all about inhaling some toxic tobacco smoke into your lungs to achieve that sparkling menthol feel.
Although some people still smoke, we’re all more aware of the negative health effects that smoking can have on the body. Back then, cigarettes were presented as a health benefit. Perhaps the most insane thing about this ad is that Kool cigarettes are still marketed as a “true menthol experience” today. They leaned into the one good thing about smoking and ran with it, health concerns be darned!
Lysol: The Perfect Summer Accessory
When we consider the last three or so years, this old ad for Lysol spray may not seem that farfetched. Weren’t many of us carrying around our own personal hand sanitizers and Lysol wipes just a few years ago? What goes around comes around because Lysol advertised its disinfectant spray as the hot new accessory for the summer back in 1972.
There are a few key differences between what we see in Lysol ads today and what was considered “normal” back then. This ad is obviously targeted directly at women, stay-at-home moms, to be specific. Even in the 70s, it was still assumed that women were the ones doing all the kin-keeping and housekeeping. The gender norms are strong in this ad
Women Will Make Everything Clean (Even in the Outer Space)
Who can’t resist all the possibilities that the outer space bears? Scientists and experts have worked their way to uncover the mysteries of space. There had been explorations to the moon and studies of exoplanets. It has always been a way of getting out of Earth and see what lies outside.
Lo and behold this Lestoil Cleaner ad saying women can join the line of men as astronauts and rocket scientists. Look closer and see what’s so wrong about it. They want to hire women to “make the Moon a cleaner place to live.” Then again, the sexist mentality surfaces! We’re by far living the 21st century with less of this. Enough of it already.
Cigarette Ads Had Bad Taste
It seems that the 60s were the heyday for sexist advertising that depicted women as either mindless housewives or sex objects. The trend continued well into the 70s, as we can see from this Tipalet cigar ad. This cigarette ad employs a double entendre that we would never see in mainstream advertising today. It’s so visually and verbally degrading that many younger generations find it mind-boggling.
We don’t mean to yuck somebody’s yum, but we highly doubt very many people love cigarette smoke getting blown in their faces. What was viewed as humorous and suggestive back then is now considered extremely rude and offensive. Thankfully, there would be a huge uproar if an ad like this came out today.
Singer: The Independence Machine
Sewing machines have always been targeted toward women because of deeply ingrained gender norms and stereotypes. This 1970s Singer ad is strange because it uses gender norms in a way that makes buying a sewing machine sound liberating and patriotic. The mental gymnastics for this ad are wild.
So, if women buy a Singer sewing machine, they can achieve true freedom by staying home and making their own clothes. Make it make sense. Sure, having the skills to make your own clothes is a huge accomplishment, but it’s only freedom if someone chooses to do so. Also, can we just take a minute to appreciate this wildly patriotic outfit? It sure does scream “independence.”
A Spotless Narrative
This 1955 magazine ad for Surf Washing Powder shows just how much advertising has changed over the last 60 years or so. The one-page ad has a whole story on it, including pictures and step-by-step instructions for how to use Surf products. Stopping to read a page-long marketing campaign is out of the question for most people today.
Plus, there’s the obvious sexism that is rampant in this ad. Liz is suddenly the apple of her man’s eye because she learned how to do his laundry. Dude can’t possibly wash his own shirt, can he? Thankfully, Surf makes any woman “his kind of girl.” No thanks.
A Different Kind of “Sweet”
Women have been subjected to criticism about their appearances and figures for centuries. With the rise of magazine advertisements, this targeted criticism became even more commonplace. Although weight loss and diet ads are still pretty commonplace, one thing we don’t see anymore is cigarette ads like this one from 1939.
Most of us know that the nicotine in cigarettes acts as a hunger suppressant. Back in the day, cigarette companies were able to shamelessly use this as a highlight in their marketing. If women smoked Lucky Strikes, they could lose weight. It’s that easy! Shaming a woman into grabbing a cigarette instead of “a sweet” for dessert seems like a weird and unhealthy approach to weight loss, right?
Color your Hair!
(but not with PolyGlow)
Dyeing the hair is actually a fun pastime. Girls mainly do it to feel more beautiful for themselves. That needs more emphasis not to be misunderstood. Girls pretty up for themselves, not for others, especially not for men. Sometimes though, girls need to pick the best hair color brand to make their hair look softer and shinier.
PolyGlow claims to make a “beautiful change” for women’s hair. It has six shades that can make your hair more vibrant and look healthier. Wait, there’s something wrong about this. PolyGlow says that you should color your hair to catch the guys’ attention. That’s really a turn-off. Might as well find a better hair dye brand, choose one that’s not sexist.
Rest Assured Furniture’s Not-Quite-Assuring Ad
When you come home after a hard day’s work, you’ll surely jump straight to your living room couch (if not directly to your bed). The cushion makes you feel at home, really comfortable. The cover fabric feels so soft. The hand frames are not too high; they can be your pillow. You might even spend your good night's sleep in it. Certainly beats a night in a suite, right?
So, in the 60s, advertisers played a different game when they sell their suites. Take for example this Rest Assure furniture ad. They are referring to the perfect curves of their new couch model. Do you see it? Obviously, they mean another thing with “curves.” Why else would they let a woman wear a sexy dress with a cocktail in hand? Rest Assured Furniture is definitely selling another thing aside from their couch and suite. One more thing, would you even buy that unattractive couch?
Looking back on these vintage ads, it’s pretty easy to see exactly who they were advertising to and what they wanted customers to buy. The 1950s marked the beginning of highly visible ads and marketing as we know it today. It was a “Wild West” decade, where pretty much any tactic was acceptable for selling products.
This 1951 ad ran in “Country Life” magazine, which is pretty obvious based on the drawing of the happy housewife peacefully trimming flowers. What does this lady have to do with a G.E.C.-brand radio and television? Nothing, but she looks nice. Vintage ads might look clunky to our content-saturated eyes, but they must have done the trick back then.
Everyone’s Refrigerator Dreams are About to Come True
Aspirational advertising has always been around in some form or another. Honestly, we don’t really have anything critiques about this gorgeous ad for a top-of-the-line 1950s refrigerator. In fact, we’re kind of jealous of that little girl who’s getting away with eating dessert before dinner. They sure don’t make fridges like this anymore!
We don’t know about you, but we’re falling for the advertising tricks in this vintage magazine ad. All of the scrumptious foods and drinks stuffed into that fridge almost make us believe that this, too, can be our reality if only we buy this specific product. Ignore the fact that a fully cooked turkey AND two frozen hams are physically impossible to fit in any kind of refrigerator.
Desert Flower Beauty Ice
Makeup and skincare ads haven’t changed that much over the decades if we really think about it. While the products change, the sentiment stays the same: buy our products to look and feel beautiful. This 1958 ad for Shulton’s Desert Flower Beauty Ice shows off its new product as a feat of modern science.
Sulton’s Desert Flower was marketed as a super-modern, cutting-edge cosmetic line that used a fancy new commercial material called “plastic” for its packaging. The beakers full of mysterious jelly were also supposed to make the product seem more modern. We have no idea what was in this stuff, but the sludge in the container looks more like aloe vera than a brand-new mystery cream.
The Volkswagen Bandwagon
According to this Volkswagen ad, this new model is specifically created for wives. This VW is made of easy-to-replace parts and relatively cheaper than other models. Its fender is customized for women drivers. Now, should women who like driving thank VW for this personalization? No need to be thankful, girls. There are cooler cars than this.
This ad presumes that women are bad at driving because they hit anything that comes their way. Can you think of a more demeaning assumption than this? Women are statistically better drivers and navigators. In fact, men are more secured with higher insurance rates because it’s directly proportional to their accident rate. So, would you still fancy a Volkswagen?
All Eyes on Nestle
Did you know that the Nestlé brand has been around since the early 1900s? By the time this magazine ad came around in 1956, the famous chocolate brand was already over 50 years old. They obviously knew what they were doing, even if this ad is lost in translation for us modern viewers.
There’s really no reason or context behind this advertisement. Why is this woman all dressed up? Does she really find Nestlé chocolate to be that eye-catching? We highly doubt it, but maybe that’s the point of the ad. Nestlé chocolate was for classy people, and they really wanted you to know, so they drew that very literal dotted line between the woman’s eyeball and the chocolate bar.
Central Heating with a Touch of Infidelity
The 60s were a wild time in advertising. As we all learned from “Mad Men” and Don Draper, the marketing industry was dominated by men and hour-long boozy lunch meetings. Looking back, it really shows. This ad is for one of the most mundane things you could add to your home: a water heater.
Boring, right? Not in the 60s! They made it as suggestive as possible, featuring a seductive close-up of a woman inexplicably named Miss Meredith. What?! The thinking behind this ad was probably that men were the ones paying for a new boiler. So, why not draw their eye with voyeuristic attention from a fake single woman? It must have worked like a charm, honestly.
A Sparkling Peroxide Smile
It’s kind of comforting to know that people back in the 50s felt pressure to whiten their teeth, too. Maclean’s has been around for over 100 years and has been pressuring us all to whiten our teeth with their toothpaste for about as long. Their claim to fame is selling one of the earliest whitening toothpaste formulas directly to consumers.
It’s kind of amazing, really, how similar this ad is to many of the tooth-whitening adverts we see today. Although the styles and slogan are outdated, this 1951 ad still features a beautiful woman with a blindingly white smile. And yes, our modern-day tooth-whitening formulas still use peroxide.
Cigarettes for Women
Undeniably, women have come a long way. The changes in the societal views show progress and gas up feminist ad campaigns. Women can work outside the four corners of a house; they are no longer stereotyped as homemakers by default. They can work in factories and toil in the labor industry. It was just right that from 60s-70s, feminists ads were screened on television.
Let’s look no further from Virginia Slims. It was the first cigarette brand to market cigarettes for women. Their ad shows a complete contrast from sexist ads that came before it. Suddenly, when you look left, you see the lyrics of “I Want A Girl.” Virginia Slims can ditch that song and the viewers can get the feminist message that it tries to convey. The lines are dated. Women can smoke and are given the right to suffrage. Thanks, Virginia Slims! Just let go of the lyrics.
VW Automatic for Terrible Drivers a.k.a Women
We’ve had enough of insulting ads. They recklessly stress that women are terrible drivers all the time. In their defense, they can say that they only released the Mini Automatic which is easier to maneuver. Basically, women can easily drive the new model. The marketing team failed to give off that message. They used the wrong set of tropes.
So, there’s a woman behind the wheels. She looks so terrified, with her widely-opened eyes and pursed lips. The ad comes across with a different message. It shows that women are clearly bad drivers that they had to create a new model just for them. Statistically speaking, women are more careful on the road. They could have simply said that they’re releasing a new model with automatic transmission for everyone. Simple, isn’t it?
Weyenberg Can Stay Underfoot Not again.
Another incident of sexism is present in a Weyenberg shoe ad. It could have been an interesting product. Weyenberg made a massagic shoe that can aid relaxation and keep one’s feet happy. This shoe could have been a big hit in the industry because it can also improve blood circulation. Something big got in the way, it’s called sexism.
The Weyenberg massage shoe ad is out-right offensive and there’s no redeeming quality in sight. “Keep her where she belongs.” That’s a perfect sentence to dismiss Weyenberg from being revered. Women have been fighting their way to be recognized in the society. They have long debunked the idea that women should remain in the house. Weyenberg could have been more radical. Women will never be kept underfoot.
The White Horse Phenomenon
Rape jokes are still rampant everywhere in the world. Until today, victim blaming and misogyny hasn’t been completely eradicated. Despite many societal awakenings, those who have been engulfed in the patriarchal hegemony have a hard time getting off the track. What adds to the difficulty of changing the misogynist mentality is the production of ads that reinforce its standards.
Here’s one of those ads that do not go the extra mile to undermine the status quo. The White Horse Liquor ad suggests that if a guy in a bachelor’s pad bears of brings a White Horse in the room, he’s automatically a good guy. This is an entirely wrong idea to cultivate to its viewers. Women are still afraid to report rape incidents because of the stigma. Don’t trust anyone, even guys who bring White Horse to pads or pubs.
The Endless Cycle of Dishes
Although women statistically still bear the brunt of housework in modern-day households, we can at least appreciate that it’s not as bad as it was in the 1950s. This 1956 ad for Lux dish soap relies on the assumption that the mother of the family is the one doing all the dishes. Thankfully, she has Lux dish soap to help her feel less overwhelmed. Aw, how sweet.
Never mind the fact that this poor woman would probably feel less overwhelmed if, say, the other members of her family helped her wash the dishes. She’s probably the one who cooks dinner, so washing the dishes is the least her family can do for her. But that would be too easy of a solution.
Pal Many of our friends take good care of their health through a healthy diet. Sometimes, temptations come in the form of savory food with high calorie and fat content. Also, when you go to fast food chains, you’ll be offered the Supersize of everything. What else does that mean? A cheat day, of course.
There’s this ad decades ago that shares a shortcut to achieve your diet goals. It sounds chancy but just spare a moment at least. Apparently, sugar, one of your diet archenemies, can actually help you lose weight. This ad claims that if you eat something with sugar before your mealtime, you’ll lose your appetite. That means, your calorie intake would abate a little. Treat sugar as your diet accomplice. Your relationship will definitely grow sweeter.
Self-care is nothing new, but it did look and smell a little different back in the day. Lux was advertising their new line of soaps in this ad, but here’s the thing. It wasn’t a new scent. It was just a line of new colors for their bar soap. This doesn’t seem like the most appealing reason to buy new soap, but maybe back then, that’s all it took to get attention?
Admittedly, these Lux soap bars do look very pretty. But we don’t want to know what kind of weird dyes were in these soaps. Considering it was the late 50s, they probably used some stuff that’s outlawed today. Also, a big selling point in this ad is that “9 out of 10 film stars” use Lux soap. Apparently, you could say anything in an ad back then, no matter how vague.
Women Can Cook Without Kenwood
Many people are inclined to watching and reading ads. They play a big role in educating the viewers and consumers. If an ad is sexist, the consumer’s ideals might be in trouble. The idea that women’s only place to be is at home has long been demystified. Women were not born and raised to serve their husbands. They have their own lives to live and own dreams to fulfill.
And then, Kenwood Chef comes into the scene. This product has been specially made for wives. “I’m giving my wife a Kenwood Chef,” the slogan reads. Kenwood thinks that women become wives to cook for their husbands all their lives. And it’s just so wrong.
Before we get into the product in this ad, let’s take a detour to the merit of cocaine in the 1880s. Cocaine was actually an additive to alcoholic beverages in the mid-19th century. Coca wine was the most popular one during that time. You might have the idea cross your mind now. Coca wine has become the soda we all enjoy these days, Coca-Cola.
1880s was a year full of discoveries. Doctors found out that cocaine can serve a purpose in the medical field. The common cause of kids crying for help is toothache, then and now. Toothache is too powerful a feeling that it can make you cry and sick all of a sudden. If it were in the 1880s, we can immediately ask for Cocaine toothache drops and instantly chase the misery away.
So, there’s this vintage vitamin ad that claims that their vitamins can give more energy to a wife. It says that it can transform a wife into a cleaning machine. She can cook, clean, do all other chores, and take good care of the children. Amazing, isn’t it? Whoever thought of this marketing idea should be the one taking a dose of vitamins that can awaken the senses.
This old-fashioned idea has been outmaneuvered. Companies can manufacture vitamins such as this to advocate for a healthier body and mind. This ad got it wrong on making it for women to make them become machines for their husbands. Not just that, this vitamin ad also claims that it can make the wife look more blooming. It can make the husband love the wife more. So wrong on so many levels.
Women had to Think About Their Appearance Even While Biking
There are so many products throughout history that simply don’t exist anymore. Take this weird safety skirt holder. This illustrated ad from the 1890s shows a brand-new, innovative product that was supposed to revolutionize the way women rode bicycles. Instead of giving women more range of movement while riding their bikes, this handy dandy skirt holder further restricted them.
No decent woman back in the late 1800s was going to go ride her bike and show off her ankles for all the world to see. Imagine the scandal it would cause. Wearing pants was definitely a no-no for women, so a skirt holder gadget was a natural solution. We can’t help but wonder how well it worked while women were pedaling. One thing’s for sure. There’s no way that thing was comfortable.
Vim Scouring Powder Embraces Child Labor?
The early 1900s were a totally different time. One of the big differences between then and now is how common and accepted child labor was in the US and UK. Putting kids to work was so generally accepted that early cleaning brands used the concept as a marketing tactic.
Vim, produced by an early version of Unilever, was a popular scouring powder used for cleaning. It was so easy to use that even your kids could give it a go. What kid doesn’t love doing chores like cleaning, scrubbing, and dusting? According to this ad, every kid from the early 1900s was all about the Vim life.
No, You Can Trade Kellog’s for Anything
We have old Uncle on the screen again. The world of advertising doesn’t just feed on machismo. They can’t get enough of discriminating people. They even make it so obvious. Kellog’s introduced their new Corn Flakes by hiring the same actor from the Jewish rye bread ad. They seemed to have had a hard time finding the right wardrobe for him. They decided to use the ones he wore in another ad.
Clearly, Kellog want the actor to appear like a Native American. Let’s take a short history class review. In 1920s, Native Americans were granted full citizenship. However, discrimination was still present at the time, especially in the world of advertising. Most of those ads end up being presumptuous and insulting.
What’s A Guy Got to Do With J&B Whiskey?
They say that a man has got a good taste if he’s got the eye for good whiskey. It shows sophistication and style. It’s also generally known that those who have the money enjoy this luxury. Some people tend to generalize that women admire guys who have the affluence that brings them to this kind of hobby. Before long, the term “sugar daddy” came to life and to square the term, also came “gold diggers.”
J&B Rare Scotch Whiskey released an ad stating that you don’t need to know a man further if he just ordered the said drink. Quite bold of them to claim. Their ad says that a woman will be enamoured to a man who orders their drink. The guy will be a potential sugar-daddy. The woman is then generalized as a gold-digger. Some hasty generalization in a whiskey ad.
Lady’s Man in a Button-Up Shirt
If there are any vintage ads for men’s products that don’t employ sexism and stereotypes, can you let us know? Because this ad for Van Heusen shirts isn’t any different from the hundreds of other magazine ads that use the same tropes and jokes. It shows a man wearing a bright white shirt, surrounded by a group of women who are all proposing to him.
The meaning of the Leap Year joke isn’t as relevant anymore, so let us explain. “Bachelor’s Day” was a tradition where every Leap Day, the tables were turned, and women could propose to men. Apparently, Van Heusen shirts were so sexy that women couldn’t help themselves but get down on one knee, regardless of the day of the year.
Want Some Skinless Wieners?
There’s absolutely no way an ad like this would get approved these days. Can you imagine coming across an ad for skinless sausages on your Instagram feed? If you did, it would probably be an ad for something very, very different. Back in the 60s, it seems that things were much more innocent.
We can all recognize the double entendre going on here. The worst (or best) part of the ad is the bottom right corner which reads, “They won’t shrivel or burst in the pan!” Oh really, now? These skinless wieners are so irresistible even the dad in the corner wants his wife to save some leftovers. Immature? Maybe. Hilarious? Most definitely.
Beer Solves It All
We’ve been talking about women as homemaker ever since. The marketing teams during the time can’t think of any other way to advertise their products than to treat women as inferior. The 1950s was the pinnacle of sexist ads. The man should be the one who finds solutions to everything, the provider, and the disciplinarian. The woman is left in the house to cook. That’s what they always say, women should know how to cook.
In this Schlitz beer ad, they came up with a solution. The woman burns whatever she cooks and cries because she can’t serve for her husband. She is portrayed as a fragile homemaker who bursts into tears because she can’t play her role well. The man, being a problem-solver, says that she doesn’t need to worry because they have beer. A woman can’t burn beer, they say. The thing is, we’ve long been over this kind of dynamics. Anyone can have beer anytime, anywhere. Whether you can cook or not, you can have beer.
Stokely’s Van Camp’s Pork and Beans and Face
Aside from running to marketing agencies, companies can also hire artists to illustrate ads for them. Stokely’s chose the latter. They hired an artist to create an ad for their Van Camp’s Pork and Beans. Nothing is sexist or racist in the ad. Some consumers just had a thing with the boy’s face.
Maybe it’s a way of saying that if you don’t try Van Camp’s Pork and Beans, you’re going to regret it. Maybe the product is so good that the artist has to show it this way. Imagine walking along the food aisle at the nearest grocery store, you might be startled. You would instantly recognize the face of Van Camp’s ad. Don’t get worked up, it’s just pork and beans.
Van Heusen Did it Again
Van Heusen seems to be not contented with their racist shirt ads. They didn’t disappoint because in the 1950s, they released another questionable ad. That time, another sexist ad. First of all, we all enjoy breakfast in bed. When we were kids, our parents would bring our meals in bed. They would give us the perfect breakfast coupled with a refreshing orange juice.
This particular ad just went too far. The man wears a Van Heusen tie and feels so entitled to be served with a breakfast in bed. Her wife is on her knees, serving her husband who feels like “it’s a man’s world.” This ad sends all the shivers to anyone who sees it. Strike two for Van Heusen.
Well, That Escalated Quickly
It’s funny how humor changes over the decades. This ad for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes is over 100 years old, and it certainly shows. The poor clerk is getting beaten over the head by the cook of an establishment because he brought a cheap Kellogg’s substitute into her kitchen. The poor guy never stood a chance.
The violence of this ad (for Kellogg’s, of all things) is shocking to most modern viewers. General society has changed its stance on corporal punishment, and it’s not as widely accepted today compared to over a century ago. Physical punishment was so commonplace that companies were able to use it in their marketing to garner some laughs. Pretty wild.
Morphine Shots for Children Teething
When a child starts teething, that means a terrible day for everyone at home, especially for moms. Kids teething are usually irritable and can’t easily sleep at night. Mothers also have a hard time sleeping because her kids will cry all night. What can a Mom do during this period? In the 1860, Mrs. Winslow came up with a soothing syrup for children teething.
When kids try out the soothing syrup, they would instantly stop crying and feel high. That high is driven by morphine and alcohol. Yes, you read it right. Drops of morphine will ease the pain but can eventually lead to something more painful than teething. In 1906, the US Pure Food and Drug Act forced companies to state the ingredients of every drug they market. The soothing syrup was banned but was still sold in some areas. Everyone loves a good night's sleep but not with Mrs. Winslows.
The Iver Johnson Irony
Guns shoot and kill. Therefore, they should be in the hands of an adult or someone who knows how to carefully handle it. Iver Johnson’s Arms and Cycle Works believes otherwise. They assert that their guns are absolutely safe that even kids can get hold of them.
Iver Johnson’s even printed that “Papa says it won’t hurt us” text on the kid’s dress in the ad. Their ad, for all that, is actually misleading. First, they say that it’s absolutely safe because their guns don’t misfire when dropped. Then, they say that “they shoot straight and kill.” Whatever this ad really means, guns are still dangerous. Iver Johnson’s or not.
Sleep Tight with Bournvita
There are plenty of products that we look back on and think, “How was that healthy?” Although Bournvita still exists as a health drink, the original recipe was anything but good for you. That didn’t stop them from advertising it as a health drink that could prepare people for anything life threw their way.
This ad shows how Bournvita helped an imaginary woman pass her driving test because she drank it the night before. Somehow, it helped her sleep like a baby. We don’t know how that happened, so don’t ask. But what was in the original Bournvita recipe? We know you’re wondering, so we’ll tell you. The powdered beverage had full-cream milk, fresh eggs, chocolate, and malt. Yum.
NO 7-Up Near the Baby
Milk is for babies. That’s a universal fact. Babies, as little as they are, should be nourished with healthy food. Parents tend to be very picky when it comes to securing their baby’s health. They keep their eye on whatever the baby consumes 24/7. What about 7-Up? Will you let a baby have some?
7-Up released an ad in 1955 showing a baby enjoying a bottle of 7-Up. The photo is undeniably bothering. When a mom sees her baby holding a bottle of 7-Up, she’ll instantly take it away from the baby. According to 7-Up, their soda is actually better than other soft drinks. They even recommended putting a few drops in a bottle of milk. Fortunately, it was later known that 7-Up is equal to 10 spoonfuls of sugar and contains caffeine. Lastly, it can drain calcium from your baby’s bones. After you see this, you might never want to see 7-Up again, especially near your baby.
Zippo Use to Openly Promote Smoking
We would never see an ad like this anywhere in the US nowadays. This 50s-era ad for Zippo lighters shows two people sharing a smoke, which is something that is heavily regulated and banned in advertising because of known health risks. However, before all the laws and regulations, brands could use smoking as an advertising point.
Although the Zippo brand isn’t directly selling cigarettes in this ad, it’s pretty obvious what they wanted people to use their lighters for. This vintage ad actually wouldn’t be too bad if it didn’t openly promote smoking. Surprisingly, it’s not overly sexist or racist in any obvious way, so at least there’s that.
A Nice Hot Cup of Bouillon
This vintage ad from 1907 is unique because it looks like a print of an actual photograph, not an illustration. It’s kind of hard to make out, but it shows a little girl preparing herself a drink with the line, “I am just going to have my OXO” underneath. Before you jump to conclusions, the OXO in this ad is not the same brand as the kitchenware company that makes those amazing Good Grips products.
Instead, this OXO refers to a turn-of-the-century brand that made liquid and solid beef extract. Basically, they made beef bouillon cubes. The crazy thing is, OXO cubes were advertised as a healthy meal for kids to help them grow big and strong. Broth has plenty of health benefits, but can you imagine drinking bouillon mixed with a cup of milk? Absolutely not.
Good Old-Fashioned Diet Pills
With the advent of magazine advertising came a flood of weight-loss products aimed at women. It seems that not much has changed between the 19th century and now, huh? The ingredients in many of our modern-day diet pills are dubious at best and harmful at worse. With that being said, the options from over 100 years ago were way worse.
Not only were 19th-century advertisements blatantly body-shaming women to make them feel bad, but the products were complete shams and had some bad side effects. According to Livestrong, some of the early diet pills were based on thyroid extract, which sped up the metabolism. Sure, people could lose weight, but they also risked irregular heartbeats, high blood pressure, and even death. Worth it? We think not.
Atari gets Stevie Wonder to Advertise their Console
Stevie Wonder is one of the biggest names in the music industry. Despite his blindness, he was a fantastic singer, songwriter, producer, musician, and a multi-instrumentalist. As one of the most critically and commercially successful musicians, there is no doubt that Stevie was a prodigy.
Atari, a gaming console marketed for children and teenagers alike had once ridden the coattails of Stevie’s fame, making him the face of this advertisement that is quite concerning as it banks on Stevie’s disability. As with most things, this was likely discussed before it was published and Stevie had agreed to the terms. Still, Stevie is truly amazing for being able to make light of his disability.
A Weird Chilprufe Ad
This advertisement for Chilprufe undergarments is pretty straightforward. However, the way we market children’s undergarments has significantly changed since this ad came out in the 1950s. We would never in a million years see an ad that featured children in their undergarments, even if it was an illustration.
We get the idea behind this Chilprufe ad. This illustrated advertisement was probably published in a women’s magazine or somewhere else that a mom would see it and think of her kids. Nowadays, most of us would clock an ad like this as extremely creepy, but back then, it was largely viewed as practical and straightforward.
Foot’s Bath Cabinet of Curiosities
If this product existed today, there would absolutely be some weird influencer ads out there on social media. We’re not 100% sure what this is, but it appears to be some kind of moisturizing cabinet for your pores. Maybe it’s a 1900s version of a personal sauna? The answer is beyond us.
What, exactly, is in this “bath cabinet”? We don’t wanna know. It looks more like a torture chamber than the “secret of health” it calls itself. You can tell this ad is an early example of marketing because of how text-heavy it is. We take visual narratives for granted these days, but back in the early 1910s, that wasn’t the case.
The Modern 70s Woman
Looking back at old advertisements, it’s so obvious what kind of message a company was trying to convey. This old 70s ad for Viceroy Longs goes to show how smoking was marketed as something “cool” and “hip.” Tobacco companies had a lot more freedom regarding what they could and could not say in an ad for their harmful products.
This ad ran in “Redbook,” a women’s magazine. This ad is trying to convince women that if they buy this product, they’ll be just as sleek as this fictional female character. She’s not like other girls. She’s cool and chill and buys Viceroy’s, duh.
The Creepiest Baby Ad
This might be the creepiest baby ad we’ve ever seen. This 1935 illustration combines photography, collage, and drawing to create an eye-catching ad for baby food. However, it’s eye-catching for all the wrong reasons. The baby’s head is way too big for its fake body, and the anthropomorphic can of baby food is giving us the creeps.
Maybe this was considered cute back in the 30s, but if we saw this ad today, most of us would wrinkle our noses. Don’t get us wrong. That baby’s face is adorable! It’s just everything else in this baby food ad that makes us pause and scratch our heads.
Seeing Double with Dior
Fashion, makeup, and trends change over the years. This is never more obvious than when we look at old ads and compare them to our modern-day ones. One glance at this vintage ad for Dior lipstick, and you immediately know that it’s from a different time. We don’t know the exact date of this magazine ad, but it was created sometime in the 60s or 70s.
The repeated mirror effect of the woman wearing Dior lipstick actually looks pretty cool. The soft filter over the photo, plus the color scheme of the ad, makes it look super awesome in a retro way. We wouldn’t be mad is this kind of ad layout came back in style. It looks so glamorous!
The Subliminal Messaging Craze
This image looks like a piece of 2010s indie art from Tumblr. It’s actually a movie still from the 1955 film “Picnic,” starring Kim Novak and William Holden. The movie still shows Kim Novak with the text “Hungry? Eat Popcorn” superimposed over the frame. This split-second ad was actually shown during screenings of “Picnic” in theaters.
Researcher James Vicary conducted a study where he inserted this ad and another one for Coca-Cola into the movie to see if viewers picked up on subliminal advertising. Subliminal advertising became a trendy topic in the 50s because companies thought they could sell more products. Consumers, on the other hand, hated the idea, and the whole concept quickly lost popularity. Plus, Vicary’s study had falsified results. There was no proof that inserting a split-second ad into a movie increased sales of popcorn.
Ads in the 50s Tried to be Futuristic…
This ad was probably considered “futuristic” back when it was published in the 50s, but our modern-day, advert-addled minds find the concept of a hand reaching out of the TV to be absolutely terrifying. If you grew up watching the original “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” you may have had dreams of Wonka Vision becoming a reality.
This ad proves that Wonka Vision would, in fact, not be cool. Giant male hands coming out of a TV to grab an attractive young woman sounds more predatory than fun, to be honest. It was the 50s, so the woman looked like she was having a blast. But as a whole, we think differently now. Nothing good can come from a stranger’s hand grabbing you and dragging you into the TV.
Feminism and Advertising in the 1970s
Plenty of ads in “Redbook” magazine started looking different in the 1970s. Second-wave feminism rose to prominence in the 60s and 70s, changing the societal landscape of America in new and exciting ways. For better or for worse, corporations rode on the movement’s coattails with edgy marketing tactics and new products. This ad for Virginia Slims is a perfect example of how companies did that.
The ad targets the “modern” woman by saying, “You’ve come a long way, baby.” The ad even mentions divorce, which is something people would have never seen just a few decades before. What do Virginia Slims have to do with liberation? Absolutely nothing, but they sure tried to make this ad as convincing as possible.
Companies Used Fur Without a Second Thought
When you hear “Cadbury,” you probably think of the chocolate company that makes Easter treats and has a cute bunny rabbit as its mascot. This well-known reputation makes this old ad super weird. As you can see, the magazine ad features a steaming cup of hot cocoa against a red background. Looks cozy, right?
As you stare longer at the image, you soon realize that the mug is wrapped in a fur stole. Is that…rabbit’s fur? This wholesome ad just got a whole lot darker. This ad came out sometime in the 70s or 80s, and you can tell. Real animal fur has lost a lot of popularity for plenty of valid reasons. We most likely wouldn’t see a mainstream candy company use real fur in any modern-day ads.
A 50s Housewife Getting Roped into Housework
This silly publicity photo looks lighthearted and funny on the surface, but it has darker undertones when viewed through a modern lens. Most people in the 50s wouldn’t have batted an eye at an immaculately dressed woman being lassoed by a man with a vacuum hose. Over time, this silly image has transformed into something sexist and demeaning for most viewers.
How many women these days would appreciate getting roped into housework by their husbands or partners? Not very many, we can tell you that much. This vintage ad just goes to show how society’s sense of humor changes as time goes on.
Not Your “Clever Girl”
Vintage ads were able to target female consumers by pretending to uplift them while demeaning them, all at the same time. It was pretty miraculous, really. This old paint ad encourages women to paint their own homes, but it somehow sounds so patronizing and demeaning that we’re stunned. It calls the woman in the ad a “clever girl.”
Apparently, figuring out how to paint a wall was considered a feat of the female mind back then. Obviously, we know that anyone can learn how to paint and improve their homes. But back then, it seemed like advertisers didn’t realize that women had critical thinking skills. Imagine that?
That Don’t Impress Me Much
This vintage ad reads more like a Valentine’s Day card instead of a commercial. It’s really novel to see how ads from the 50s created whole stories just to sell one product. It’s kind of impressive, really. In this ad, one woman gets courted by various different men who offer her different desserts. In the famous words of Shania Twain, “That don’t impress me much.”
She’s not impressed until someone comes up and offers her a delicious Fry’s Milk Punch Bar. We’re not going to lie. A chocolate bar with caramel and fudge sounds absolutely delicious. Wait…is this ad working on us? Darn it.
Gender Roles Were Everywhere
This ad may have made sense back in the 1950s, but we don’t really get it from a modern perspective. What we do know is that companies loved to play up gender roles in the 50s. For whatever reason, this ad argues that if a woman buys glass bottles, her husband will love her more. Huh?
Times have changed, which is probably why this ad doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. However, it’s pretty obvious that this ad is sexist and preys on women’s insecurities and fears. Of course, everyone wants to be loved and validated by their partners. But is buying brown glass bottles really the only way to achieve those things? We’re not buying it.
A Terrifying Work Environment
We see about 50 HR violations in this single image from this 1972 “Life Magazine” ad. Granted, work environments were a tad bit different for women back then, but it’s wild to think that the 70s were only five decades ago. There are a lot of assumptions being made in this ad, so let’s go through them.
First off, this is an ad for an Olivetti typewriter. The company made this ad knowing that people would assume the woman in the center was an administrative assistant. Of course the only woman in the office is the secretary. Why would she hold any other title? Also, this add is assuming that this woman loves having five men tower over her while she’s trying to get her work done. What happened to personal space?
Another Misleading Tobacco Ad
Tobacco and cigarette ads were truly wild back in the day. This 1970s ad shows a regular ole Joe surrounded by a group of beautiful women vying for his affection. Why? Because he buys a specific brand of cigars, duh! Even though this ad ran in “Playboy,” it’s still pretty sexist by today’s standards.
Although we don’t see ads that are this obvious in modern marketing, companies still rely on the same trope of the “every man” wooing the ladies with material possessions. Somehow, the narrative of an average guy winning the heart of an above-average woman is still popular. Why does that still work? There’s probably some psychology behind that.
Housework So Simple, Even Dad Can Do It
Believe it or not, sexism and misogyny harm men as well as women. This ad from the 1940s shows a father triumphantly doing his family’s laundry while his wife is in bed and on the mend from some unspecified ailment. The thing is, laundry isn’t really that hard to learn.
The average American family was pretty traditional back then, with men going to work outside the home while women managed the household and children. Even though most of us know how to do basic household tasks nowadays, men never bothered to learn how to cook, clean, or do laundry on their own. This ad further reinforced the idea that men simply couldn’t teach themselves to do basic chores, which is kind of sad in a way.
The 1800s Loved Problematic Illustrations
We would like to apologize if this vintage ad gives you nightmares. We never wanted to see this terrifying illustration of a pig with a man-child’s head, but here we are. This weird and surreal ad is for a chill tonic, which was medicine for adults and children who had malaria, fevers, and any other ailment that caused the chills.
Apparently, taking this chill tonic was also a good way to gain weight. We’re not exactly sure how because the connection to chill tonic and weight gain seems dubious at best. We would never see an ad like this today, especially because of the language used. The phrase “fat as pigs” is definitely not politically or socially correct these days (thankfully).
Horror Movie or Meat Ad?
When we first laid eyes on this magazine ad, it left us speechless for a few seconds. No, it’s not an ad for the latest horror movie. It’s a French magazine ad for a pork product, and we absolutely hate it. Why, oh why, did the creators of this ad think it was a good idea to have this poor pig cutting himself open with a knife?
This ad is so gruesome and disturbing that we can’t imagine anyone feeling hungry after coming across it in a magazine or newspaper. It’s a little too literal for our modern meat-eating tastes. We’d be so curious to learn how people of the time actually felt about this creepy ad.
Corporal Punishment: The 1950s Way
As a whole, our feelings about physical punishment have changed quite a bit when compared to the 1950s. What many considered “normal” back then is now considered abusive and violent. To our modern, 21st-century eyes, this ad looks like it’s from another world. We would never see a mainstream ad featuring a husband doing such a thing to his partner.
The humor in this ad did not age like fine wine. In fact, it aged quite poorly, much like a stale cup of coffee. We’re sure glad it’s now widely accepted that a man physically punishing their partner for buying the “wrong” thing at the store is unacceptable.
The Doctor’s Orders
According to the CDC, scientists started linking lung cancer to smoking in the 1940s and 50s. At the time, smoking was incredibly popular, and tobacco companies were worried that these findings would affect their bottom lines. So, they did something truly unhinged and insidious to hedge their bets.
This ad is an example of how big tobacco companies started hiring doctors to endorse their products. Their hope was that these paid endorsements from actual doctors would help stomp out the bad press and very real dangers of nicotine and tobacco smoke. Any doctor worth their salt knew smoking was bad for people’s health, but some of them still sold out and did these ads.
When Coca-Cola was invented in the 1880s, it was originally marketed as a temperance drink with medicinal benefits. Also, the rumors are true. The original Coca-Cola recipe did, in fact, contain cocaine before it was made illegal in the US. With all of that history in mind, it’s still crazy to see Coca-Cola marketed as a “brain tonic.”
If this ad was for the “special” original Coca-Cola, we have no doubt that it helped with “mental and physical exhaustion.” Anyone would perk right up with a sip of that stuff. Nowadays, the thought of soda being marketed as a type of medicine is truly wild. If anything, we all know the negative health effects of soda rather than the positive ones.
It Was Okay to Call a Woman a “Pet”
This old ad is an example of how things that used to be considered funny are unthinkable in our modern society. It reads, “If your wife can’t cook, don’t divorce her. Keep her for a pet and eat at our place.” Ew. We’re assuming this ad is for a restaurant of some sort. A restaurant we never want to eat at, specifically.
This ad played into generally accepted expectations from decades past. As wives, women were expected to cook, clean, pick up after their families, and do all the household shopping while looking happy and unflappable. Not being able to cook was seen as a flaw, and this ad played into that idea. Even though there are still a lot of issues surrounding women’s rights in our society, at least we’d never see a company refer to a woman as a “pet.”
An Old and Grizzly Santa
The Santa Claus that we know today was popularized in the 1860s thanks to an initial illustration in “Harper’s Bazaar.” From there, Santa has changed to fit in with the times, but his signature red-and-white suit and facial hair have remained the same. Back in the 30s, it wasn’t uncommon to see Santa advertising products like Lucky Strike cigarettes.
No wonder Santa has such a gravely voice! All those Lucky Strikes no doubt dealt his vocal cords a blow. Interestingly, this ad argues that Santa’s cigarettes help throat irritation and are “easy” on the throat. We’re not so sure about that, Santa.
Housework Has Always Taken Forever
This 1893 advertisement goes to show that housework has always taken forever. The ad, which is for Gold Dust washing powder, uses the phrase “fourteen-hour wives of eight-hour men” to describe their target audience. The “fourteen-hour” phrase implies it was common knowledge that women worked just as hard, if not harder, than their husbands.
As we all know, household chores are neverending. It seems that over a century later, not much has changed. Many of us could easily spend over fourteen hours cleaning our house and running errands, only to wake up and do it all over again. Weren’t modern conveniences supposed to help with that?
Martini Advertisements Were Wild
This ad from the 1960s is wild– literally. This whole aesthetic is completely unhinged by today’s standards. The casual misogyny of having a woman in a cage was just, like, okay back in 1960s advertising. They made it all cutesy by dressing her in an animal print dress, but it’s still sexist no matter which way you look at it.
Imagine if a brand ran an ad campaign like this on social media. People would lose their minds, and not in a good way. It’s interesting to look back and see what was taken for granted and accepted as “funny” or “sexy” all those decades ago.
The Obviousness of 50s Advertising
Even though this old ad is sexist and slightly demeaning in an outdated way, it’s kind of funny because it shows how much marketing has changed over the last six decades. This telephone ad pretty much spells out their goal in four paragraphs of copy that reads like a middle school essay assignment.
Like, can they be any more obvious that they want housewives to buy their phones? They even go so far as to bring up spousal competition. The husband has a phone in his office, so why can’t she? It would be a good point if it weren’t for that horribly dated phrase, “the kitchen where you do so much of your work.”
Holiday Ads Were Different…Or Were They?
This vintage 1950s ad was created by a men’s grooming company for their holiday marketing campaign. It’s a classic vintage ad targeted at women who want to impress their partners with the “perfect” gift. Although holiday ads look a little different these days, the sentiment is kind of the same.
We still see a ton of ads that try to convince us that the “perfect” gift is out there. Sure, companies might not say outright that people want to buy outside validation and affection from their partners, but it’s still subtly implied. If anything, this holiday ad goes to show how sophisticated marketing has become over the last half-century.
Life in Plastic, It’s Fantastic
The 1950s were a big moment for plastics. Plastic packaging and products started popping up everywhere, and it was praised as the hot new thing. Heck, even sliced bread jumped on the plastic bandwagon, as we can see from this weird-looking vintage ad for Du Pont cellophane.
Strangely, this magazine ad is for the plastic that the bread is wrapped in, not the bread itself. The little girl featured front-and-center was probably intended to look cute and wholesome, but the illustration gives off creepy horror movie vibes instead. We’re still buying prepackaged bread wrapped in plastic, so this marketing campaign must have worked.
This vintage ad from the 1800s shows how much has changed in advertising while some aspects remain all too relatable. If you’re a parent, you know that little kids can get into all sorts of trouble if left unattended. This illustration shows a Victorian toddler dyeing her favorite doll and the family pet in a bowl of red dye.
The point of the ad is that their dye is so easy to use even a kid can do it. While this sentiment was probably not appreciated by moms, grandmas, and housekeepers across America, the humor behind this ad is still relevant. It’s funny how some things just never change.