10 Crazy Ads from History

May 31, 2013     / / /

The 1950’s through the 1970’s were a strange time in advertising. Women were stuck in the kitchen, casual racism was abundant and crazy ads were everywhere. Below is a list of crazy vintage ads that will make you grateful for modern standards, or perhaps nostalgic for the ‘good ole days’. While reading this list, imagine if you would, each crazy ad’s impact on the public if it were to run unedited in popular print publications today. Without further ado (as if most of you even read this paragraph) here are 10 Crazy Ads from History, a vintage lesson in ridiculous marketing.

10. Coca Cola “How Soon is Too Soon”


The Ad

“For a better start in life, start cola earlier! How soon is too soon? Not soon enough. Laboratory tests over the last few years have proven that babies who start drinking soda during that early formative period have a much higher chance of gaining acceptance and fitting in during those awkward pre-teen and teen years. So, do yourself a favor. Do your child a favor. Start them on a strict regimen of sodas and other sugary carbonated beverages right now, for a lifetime of guaranteed happiness.”

What were they thinking?

[Edit] This ad raised some red flags and is indeed a fake. Thanks to commenter Levi for pointing this out. Here is a link to the creator’s blog. Still… that baby has the most amazing hair I’ve ever seen on an infant, real or fake.


9. Van Heusen “4 out of 5 Men”


The Ad

“4 out of 5 men want Oxfords… in these new Van Heusen styles. [Starting at the top] Fashion’s new favorite Van Ron collar is Oxford cloth. New, soft, rounded collar, without stays. [Next] The roll’s the thing! Van Roll button-down spread in Oxford. Curves from neck to collar point. [Next] College and alumni tradition! Button-down in Oxford cloth. Casual yet always dressy. [Next… uhhh] Rumor has it that even he would gladly swap his boar’s teeth for a Van Heusen Oxford! [Next] Style sensation! Van Roll collar in Oxford cloth… rolls as it spreads… for a more casual look. Comes in whites, colors and stripes. Only $4.50. A new shirt free if your Van Heusen shrinks out of size. The ties: Van Heusen Oxfod Shirtmates, $1.50. Van Heusen, the world’s smartest shirts.”

What were they thinking?

This ad, which ran in 1952, pitched Van Heusen’s Oxford shirt line as the premiere upper torso covering of the successful Caucasian business professional in your life. The issue here is obvious, no one in their right mind believes a blond man would be used in 1950’s mass advertising! Right? Yeah… 4 smiling leave-it-to-beaver father figures make the ‘smart’ choice and go with Van Heusen shirts, only the ‘savage’ – complete with nose ring and femur bone through his top-knot – chooses otherwise. And even HE has doubts about his choice of boars-tooth necklace. Thanks Van Heusen! Aside from blatant racism, even in 1952, Van Huesen had other ads that failed the eye test for public consumption including a number that set new standards for sexism in advertising. How trustworthy are these guys anyway? One clearly has no understanding of how a pipe works, appearing seconds away from grinding through the stem with his alien-like tooth ridge and the center gentleman appears to have just suffered a serious head injury. All-in-all, Van Heusen missed the mark.


8. Tipalet “Blowing Smoke”


The Ad

“[Yikes] Blow in her face and she’ll follow you anywhere. Hit her with tangy Tipalet Cherry. Or rich, grape-y Tipalet Burgundy. Or luscious Tipalet Blueberry. It’s Wild! Tipalet. It’s new. Different. Delicious in taste and in aroma. A puff in her direction and she’ll follow you, anywhere. Oh yes… you get smoking satisfaction without inhaling smoke. Smokers of America, do yourself a flavor. Make your next cigarette a Tipalet.”

What were they thinking?

Tipalet ran this print ad during the late 1960’s to early 1970’s. Tipalet, which appears to have sold some sort of cigar/q-tip hybrid, tells it’s potential customers that all it takes to win over a woman is a blast of cherry scented smoke up her nostrils. As luck would have it, they had just the product to assist in your beekeeper method of womanly wooing. With obvious sexist overtones, as well as a pitch that is downright stupid – “buy our scented cigars so you can blast people with grape flavored burn-off” this Tipalet campaign fails to accomplish much more than set the stage for decades of dirty jokes by anyone who stumbles across it. Also, why did everyone in the 60’s use appear as if they used industrial strength car grease to shellac their body hair to fire-hazard levels? Smoke inhalation induced brain damage? Yeah… that has to be it.


7. Delmonte “Woman Safe Ketchup”


The Ad

“You mean a woman can open it?”

What were they thinking?

Del Monte Ketchup’s 1953’s ad campaign had a simple message – “We’ve make it so easy to open our ketchup bottles even women, with their weak fingers and stupid not-man brain, can open to access our quality vinegar-tomato puree.” This woman, in fact, is so surprised and delight by this fact that she appears on the verge of ketchup induced ecstasy. Truly, Del Monte had engineer the first great steps toward equality of the sexes. First it was ketchup bottles, then who knows – maybe someday women will be allowed on the streets like normal folk? Look at that model up there in that ad holding the ketchup bottle, she thinks she’s people! I’ve heard complaints that too many ads today poke fun at the ‘bumbling guy-dad’ stereotype… but after seeing this ad, fair is fair. Fire away.


6. Camel “The Doctor’s Choice”


The Ad

“[Partial] He’s one of the businest men in town. While his door may say Office Hours 2 to 4, he’s actually on call 24 hours a day. The doctor is a scientist, a diplomat, and a friendly sympathetic human being all in one, no matter how long and hard his schedule. According to a recent Nationwide survey: More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette. Doctors in every brandch of medicine – 113,597 in all – were queried in this nationwide study of cigarette preference. Three leading research organizations made the survey. The gist of the query was – What cigarette do you smoke, Doctor? The brand named most was Camel! [cont…] Your “T-Zone” will tell you… T for Taste… T for Throat… that’s your proving ground for any cigarette. See if Camels don’t suit your “T-Zone” to a T.”

– Photo courtesy of boredpanda.com

What were they thinking?

Who wouldn’t trust Doctor McStrongjaw up there to tell what is healthy and what isn’t? Heck, I’d trust him to perform open heart surgery solely on the basis that he has ‘a doctory look to him’. If he walked onto any medical school campus in the nation – he’d be awarded an honorary degree on the spot. Which he would add to all the real life medical degrees he’s surely earned the old fashioned way – pouring over medical journals while chain-smoking a pack of “doctor’s choice” Camels. This campaign by Camel, which ran from 1940 to 1949, was in response to nationwide rumblings that perhaps inhaling smoke on a daily basis may not be the best idea when it came to health. Camel attacked the notion directly with a school-yard “nuh uh it isn’t bad for you!” approach. Also, in regards to the ‘survey’ the campaign is referencing? “In an attempt to substantiate the “More Doctors” claim, R.J. Reynolds paid for surveys to be conducted during medical conventions using two survey methods: Doctors were gifted free packs of Camel cigarettes at tobacco company booths and them upon exiting the exhibit hall, were then immediately asked to indicate their favorite brand or were asked which cigarette they carried in their pocket.” (Stanford School of Medicine) Whoops, hindsight is twenty/twenty eh Camel?


5. Cream of Wheat “Boy Wanted”


The Ad

“Cream of Wheat Inn. Boy Wanted. Here you are.”

What were they thinking?

Not sure what to say about this Cream of Wheat ad, which appears to be striving for Norman Rockwell undertones. Instead the undertones ring more “Cannibal Holocaust” or perhaps “Soylent Greent”. Clearly that kindly Cream of Wheat chef has paid the stork to drop off daily… uhh… groceries. Oh, also, according to the caption at the base of the ad – that bespectacled stork can talk. Thank you Cream of Wheat, for the nightmare fuel.


4. Chase & Sanborn “If Your Husband Ever Finds Out…”


The Ad

“If your husband ever finds out you’re not ‘store-testing’ for fresher coffee… if he discovers you’re still taking chances on getting flat, stale coffee… woe be unto you! For today there’s a sure and certain way to test for freshness before you buy.”

What were they thinking?

“Hank, we here at Chase and Sanborn Coffee feel that our new ad campaign should reflect the solid familial values our company was founded on. Hard work, early mornings, late nights and some good ole fashion spousal abuse.” Nothing sells coffee more effectively than fear of retribution. Hell… the terrified pain in that poor woman’s eyes makes me want to double check my coffee brand – and I don’t even drink coffee. Another gem from the 1950’s depicts what Chase and Sanborn likely feel is a perfectly reasonable response to any woman who dares prepare stale coffee. Also… the ad seems to imply that Chase and Sanborn have a solution to stale coffee (apart from simply choosing their product) – “today there’s a sure and certain way to test for freshness before you buy”, however the copy-writer for the ad must have died mid paragraph, because no mention or explanation is made as to specifically WHAT that solution is.


3. Volkswagen “Women Drivers”


The Ad

“Sooner or later, your wife will drive home one of the best reasons for owning a Volkswagen. Women are soft and gentle, but they hit things. If your wife hits something in a Volkswagen, it doesn’t hurt you very much. VW parts are easy to replace. And cheap. A fender comes off without dismantling half the car. A new one goes on with just ten bolts. For $24.95 plus labor. And a VW dealer always has the kind of fender you need. Because that’s the one kind he has. Most other VW parts are interchangeable too. Inside and out. Which means your wife isn’t limited to fender smashing. She can jab the hood. Graze the door. Or bump off the bumper. It may make you furious, but it won’t make you poor. So when your wife goes window-shopping in a Volkswagen, don’t worry. You can conveniently replace anything she uses to stop the car. Even the brakes.”

What were they thinking?

If there is one thing we can all agree on, it’s that all women are terrible drivers… am-I-right bros?! Another ad standing firmly atop the 1950’s ad-man’s bread and butter, sexism. How could you Don Draper? Look… you made me so upset that I mixed metaphors. This campaign from Volkswagen presents the value-proposition that a Volkswagen produced vehicle is so affordable to maintain and repair – that men can feel comfortable allowing their wives bumper-car the vehicle around town like a rodeo clown. Ad fail highlight – “Women are soft and gentle, but they hit things” Hahahaha oh wow… just wow. Hopefully for Volkswagen, their prototypical “50’s wife’ can yank her eyes away from glitzy department store windows long enough to hobo-roll the car home for the man to get it repaired. Otherwise downtown Bigcity USA would be positively littered with wrecked Volkswagen lovebugs.


2. Desoto “Get a Desoto”


The Ad

“Coming soon to a dealer near you! Dad can I get a Desoto Bike!”

What were they thinking?

Hey! Leper-Zombie demon children with an affinity for bow ties need transportation too! In my mind, the freckled (pock-marked) lad/disembodied head leans in from off-camera, already sporting a rigamortus smile… “Daaaad? Daaaaaaaad? Desoooooto Biiiiiike…” Yikes, just gave myself the heebie-jeebies. Also, that bike is ugly as sin.


1. Lloyd Manufacturing “Cocaine for Kids”


The Ad

“Cocaine toothache drops. Instantaneous cure! Price 15 cents. Prepared by the Lloyd Manufacturing Co. For sale by all druggists.”

What were they thinking?

Nothing like an afternoon of cocaine shakes and lincoln-logs with Lucy from down the street. “Mother? My uhhh… my tooth hurts again.”

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