A lot has changed in the last sixty years and looking back at advertisements from that era is a stark reminder of how much has changed. Some of the stereotypes that were considered the norm then seem strange and sometimes funny to us now.
Here is a sampling of ads from the fifties that are pretty much unimaginable today:
1. Drummond Sweaters
“Men are Better Than Women” was the bold headline for a company specializing in outdoor wear for men. A photo shows two men hauling a woman up the side of a cliff, apparently because women are not capable of climbing a mountain. Demeaning language like “Indoors women are useful—even pleasant” would never be tolerated today.
2. Seven Up
“Why We Have the Youngest Customers in the Business”. The ad shows an eleven month old baby in a high chair drinking a bottle of 7 Up soda. The copy suggests that moms should mix 7 Up with milk and give it to toddlers. Outrageous!
3. Santa Fe Railroad
“See the Indian Country…” Use of that term has been replaced by more politically correct “Native American”.
4. Celebrity endorsed cigarette ad
“Chesterfields are completely satisfying…it’s my cigarette” intones Lucille Ball of “I Love Lucy” fame. Tobacco use is socially restricted and no longer glorified in print ads.
5. Bell & Howell
Their color slide projector makes a play on the term “projector” by showing a woman with grossly exaggerated conical breasts. The women’s movement pretty much nixed these images during the following decade.
6. Van Heusen ties
“Show Her It’s a Man’s World” ad consists of a woman kneeling at beside and serving breakfast to a man wearing a shirt and tie. The idea here is role reversal suggesting that men would have treated women this way. However, the headline and graphic dominate, emphasizing the negative image of women as servants.
7. Demure feminine douche product
“What does douching have to do with your HUSBAND?”The word “husband” dominates the ad suggesting that the whole purpose of using a feminine product is primarily to please a man, specifically a husband. The subtle message here was that sex was only sanctioned within a marriage. Well things have certainly changed!
8. Dormeyer appliances
“WIVES…circle what you want for Xmas. If your husband doesn’t go to the store, cry. Husband, buy it before she starts to cry”. Again, a stereotype of a woman as childlike who would cry if she didn’t get what she wanted.
9. Chase and Sanborn coffee
“If your husband ever finds out…” A man has his wife over his knee with hand raised to spank her for buying the wrong coffee. This is another stereotype of a woman as a child and also an indication of a man’s right to use physical force on a woman.
10. Pitney Bowes postage meter
“Is it always illegal to kill a woman?” Ad shows a drawing of an exasperated man glaring at a smug looking woman as she stands over a postage meter. The idea of a husband murdering his wife for not mailing a letter probably brought a laugh during that time. Now it only brings a gasp.
It’s hard to imagine, but society fifty years from now may look back on today’s ads with similar amusement or amazement. Only time will tell.