Advertising is a tricky business. Companies try to sell niche things to as many people as possible. Why do we buy one toothpaste and not another? Some claim cost, others just trust the brand. Where do we get this loyalty from?
We’ve unearthed some adverts from history that are definitely politically-incorrect in today’s climate. In a world where young people find clapping in public problematic, we can’t imagine how they would react to these…
Cocaine Toothache Drops
If The Weeknd is to believed, it is true that you ‘Can’t Feel Your Face’ when experimenting with Cocaine. It probably made sense, then, for this company to capitalize on the addictive drug to help sell toothache medicine. The face-numbing drops would be sold for a shockingly cheap 15 cents to children to help them sooth the pain of toothaches. This advert would be swiftly pulled and Cocaine would be outlawed, paving the way for it to become the world’s favorite party drug instead.
Advertisements often catered to women – the carriers of most purchase power in the US – in the most unusual ways. They would cater to women’s insecurity and men’s misogyny. Here, we can see how women are supposed to realize that men find them repulsive if they don’t tone up. The derogatory language was commonplace for advertisements in the 1960s and 1970s. Strangely, trends would change a few years later claiming that men like skinny girls. Keep up, ladies!
Gillette wanted to highlight just how safe their razors were to use. Fair enough, it’s a unique selling point compared to their competitors. Weirdly, they thought the best way to convey this was by showing a baby shave their face. We imagine it also had something to do with getting people hooked to the brand early – fathers would buy Gillette for their sons, and so on. Either way, we don’t quite understand the point of this particular advert.
Don’t Be A Smelly Woman
We don’t know what’s worse: highlighting the problem of a woman’s smell or comparing it to crossed off facial features. The aggressive pen marks on this woman’s face show just how nice she looks – but do we want her to smell? It certainly takes an extreme point and drills it home to potential buyers. Sadly, this advert only increases insecurities in women on other parts of their body: worrying about their smell will get them to compare their hair, eyes, and teeth to the lady here.
It looks as though Iver Johnson took a page out of Gillette’s playbook. The ‘it’s-so-easy-a-child-could-use-it’ theory is inverted here to show a child would be incapable of shooting your gun. As if a razor to a baby’s face wasn’t bad enough, here’s your daughter playing with a $6 gun. Don’t worry, it’s so safe she won’t be able to kill you. We admit, it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. Either way, we are interested to know if this campaign worked.
The worst part about your pregnant wife suffering from morning sickness is definitely the fact that she can’t cook your breakfast. At least, that’s what the makers of Mornidine want you to think. Interestingly, medicine for her is advertised to him – as if he is ready to step in and save her. By her, we mean he can now continue to get eggs brought to him in bed. And judging by her face in the photo, it looks like there’s nothing she would rather do!
7UP really wants you to know that it is a family-friendly drink. Looking at that baby’s face, could you blame them? This sugary soda should be in the center of every dinner table, the company claims, because of how happy it makes our infants. Is your child feeling tired in the morning? No problem: just pour some 7UP directly into his/her cup to ensure absolutely zero-consequences to this charming action. It’s best to get them hooked on the stuff early.
This is an advert for pants. Obviously. It must have been 4pm on a Friday when this advert was commissioned – just what exactly is it saying? Your pants are nice so you can kick your wife’s head? Your wife is a tiger? She should be skinned? If we wanted, we could guess that your brand new pants would be so luxurious and appealing, you would be able to walk all over any woman who dares to defy you. Somehow, we think this advert lacked such nuance.
Share A Beer With Your Granddaughter
Rainer Beer really wanted you to know that it’s a beer old men can enjoy with young girls. Heck, we don’t even know these two are related – we kind of just assumed it. The glowing health promised by the beer company is a questionable strategy for those marketers who wanted to appeal to multi-generational audiences. Next time you’re looking at buying a beer, think of Rainers and how they want everyone – even teenage girls – getting drunk.
This advert wants you to think that your wife will want to get down on the floor and kiss the brand new hoover you bought. Because that’s a normal response to anything – especially cleaning products for only women. The best part about this is that the thought bubble is empty: as if the buyer – a man – can write in what he thinks she should be thinking. The 1950s was certainly a different time – highlighting the woman’s role at home.
All mothers want their children strong enough to punch them in the face someday. At least, that’s what Bee Hive Corn Syrup thinks. It turns out their thousands of dollars worth of market research was incorrect – leading to this hilarious advert. Although we can all admit we want children growing up tall and strong, the imagery here is a little unsettling. Better yet, Bee Hive wants you to forget about a cup – just drink it out the can!
Keep Your Wife As A Pet
This establishment wants you to know that you shouldn’t divorce your wife if she can’t cook. Still, since this is from the 1950s, it begs the question as to why you would even marry her to begin with. It doubles down on the idea that she should NOT be known as simply a pet to keep in the house. Which is good to know. The lesson here – remember that wives aren’t not human beings!
Wrap Your Baby Up
This is really a strange one. Considering the huge PSAs telling you not to wrap yourself up in cellophane, it’s amazing this used to even be an advert. Although, maybe that’s why the industry is going back on itself so heavily. The ‘best things’ are wrapped in cellophane, including your living and breathing child. We can’t quite follow the logic for this advert and why anyone would think this would appeal to anyone. We just hope this discontinued advert didn’t cause any accidents.
Your Wife Is A Bad Driver
If you excuse its smart pun, this is a horrendous advert that aims to only highlight what a bad driver your wife probably is. Highlighting this damaged vehicle is supposed to show how safe it is for the driver – an example only your wife would be capable of demonstrating. This moment of inevitability suggests to not even bother consulting your wife with the decision to buy a particular car – she’s only going to ruin it anyway. Just make sure you’re both safe.
Endorsements are a powerful advertisement tool used by companies mainly via celebrities. However, it wasn’t too long ago that cigarette companies used positive testimonies from healthcare professionals to sell tobacco. Before it was acknowledged just how dangerous cigarettes were for you, Camel sought the approval from doctors to help sell their products. Because Camels are much healthier than other brands, apparently. Soon after this advert went live, it became clear how dangerous these were and it was pulled.
That’s A Spankin’
This is such a provocative advert for coffee, it makes you think that marketing executives had probably had too much of their product when they greenlit this. The idea that a husband could spank his wife for buying the wrong coffee shows how dangerous the marriage dynamic was in the past. Thankfully, Chase and Sanborn is here to save your marriage (and life) with their fresh grounds and product. It’s scaremongering to attract young, scared women. Yummy.
Kids NEED It, Ok?
If there was ever a picture that hid cries in smiles, this is it. Both mother and child look positively miserable through their fake smiles as they promote either candy, cellophane, or both. The child is hiding something behind his back – assumingly to hit his mother with if he doesn’t get his way. Be a smart mother and don’t disappoint your child, the advert says, otherwise you’ll have hell to pay! He says he needs it – give it to him, ok?
The Blame Game
You heard it here first: women only have themselves to blame for STAYING ALIVE. Palmolive is telling men and women everywhere that her aging skin is a direct cause of a loveless marriage. In one of the most shocking adverts in our list, Palmolive has the audacity to claim it is the only thing standing in between a man and a woman and their happiness. Because we know men are incapable of loving the person and not the face, it is ESSENTIAL you save yourselves from each other’s terrible qualities.
Fat Is Beautiful
This advert seems to have gone full circle, considering all the love for plus-sized models recently. Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic promises to make you and your children fat as pigs. And that’s a good thing, remember! In an age where being fat is a sign of wealth and prosperity, Grove’s reminds you to eat more and more of it – all but guaranteeing a heart attack in the near future. This advert wouldn’t be controversial today: many people are promoting a ‘big is beautiful’ mantra – contributing to rising rates of diabetes everywhere.