Advertising is not only the art of selling a product, it’s also the art of conveying a specific message to a specific group of people in hopes they become customers time and again. With the rise of mass consumerism throughout the 20th century, advertising suddenly became as important, if not more important, than the actual product being sold. Here’s a look back at some of the more outrageous moments in advertising that left us thinking who possibly could have approved these for mass production…
1. All Tied Up
If you want to claim your power and state your manliness, then, of course, you have no choice but to wear a men’s only tie. Right? This vintage advertisement tried to be punny, and touch on the subconscious of men. Thankfully, this wouldn’t fly today. Men wear ties to impress their wives, not to tie them down.
2. A Dress Without Stress
The time has come once and for all! You can now stop stressing over your clothing with this all-new, innovative wrinkle free, water-resistant fabric that will fool anyone that it’s never before been worn. Show them all how much you don’t care by allowing people to just splash water all over you – as you stay calm and just casually laugh it all off.
3. Don’t Get Caught In Her Web
No one likes morning breath, that’s for sure. The Chlorodent toothpaste brand wanted women to know that their husband definitely doesn’t like it either, not in any way, shape, or form. Simply use Chlorodent toothpaste and your man won’t look at another woman again. Or at least, that’s what the company promises in their ad.
4. Get Fat Fast
Who knew that ironized yeast could help you attract more male attention? Skinny girls should just eat some of this stuff and they’re good to go! If only it was that easy in today’s day in age to have all eyes on us. Today, we’ve got to work a whole lot harder to achieve a look that society considers to be desirable and attractive.
5. Don’t Be So Fresh
Chase & Sanborn took the role-playing route in this ad for their specialty fresh coffee. Clearly, this man was quite upset that this woman prepared coffee that’s not fresh. The audacity! Well, not quite, and thankfully, today when coffee is less than fresh, things are dealt with slightly differently. We can’t exactly blame them though, they were only keeping up with the trends of the time.
6. Marriage Counselor
Lysol did a whole lot more than just keep the home clean and shiny. Their feminine hygiene product offers some marital advice to women reminding them to keep clean for their husbands’ sake, because of course, otherwise without their sexist ad, no woman would ever have known the importance of hygiene and keeping clean.
7. Labor Ladies
The United States Department of Defense wanted the gals to pitch in too. Who knew girl could be part of the war effort, let alone useful? Especially back then! Well, as it turns out, they are useful after all! Nowadays, it’s of course more obvious that all sexes take part in the effort if their heart desires, and no, not just with tasks such as sewing.
8. Ring Around Rosie
Men only need to wear a pair of Broomsticks slacks to get a girl of their dreams, or so it seems at least. Play the Broomsticks way or go home. Whoever designed Broomsticks pants sure knew how to make an advertisement that would speak to the minds of young men, and get them all wanting a pair or two.
9. Double D Deal
Every girl wants to feel pretty, and Ringlet bras do just that by giving them a flattering silhouette. Nobody wants to be flat and not pretty, now do they? How could you possibly be considered a top notch, desired girl without their bra that will help you reach instant perfection? Well, you can’t – and that’s exactly why you must buy it now.
10. Someone Call The Doctor
Men, take no chances, these ladies might be carrying a disease, and you could have absolutely no idea. Take your girl on over to the clinic as soon as possible, because they may very well be totally loaded with diseases. Well, this is not exactly a light way to warn men about potential diseases, and not exactly the nicest.
11. The Answer Is Yes
The answer is yes, yes, yes, and once again if it wasn’t already made clear enough – it’s yes. It is in fact illegal to kill a woman, somehow. Someone in this ad needs to take an intensive anger management course. This boss is attempting to teach this ditzy dame how to use technology, to which she looks uninterested. Nonetheless, however, the answer is still yes.
12. Put a Little “Pep” in Your Step
Staying home and cleaning all day is exhausting for any woman! Clearly, the answer is a daily vitamin that will give the woman in your home a “pep” in her step, otherwise she may get tired and decided to take a rest, which is completely unacceptable. While it’s not clear whether these were actual vitamins or not, it’s probably the least absurd concept of this ancient advertisement.
13. Twice As Nice
This model is clearly having a blast due to the fact that she’s got not one, but two six packs of coca-cola. That’s the way to go friends. Don’t you want to have fun too, just like the advertisement promises you? If not, and you prefer to sit home alone bored, then that’s completely fine too – go with out two six packs of coca-cola and that’s what you’ll get.
14. A Shoe With a View
Wevenberg Massagic Shoes ran this ad for their Hush Puppies style shoe in the 1970s. It’s a bit strange for a company to clearly be marketing a female to shoe for a male audience. This ad is regarded as one of the most offensive commercial advertisements in modern history, and it’s quite clear why – no further explanation needed.
15. A Rocket in Your Pocket
There’s nothing like having in a rocket in your pocket. Not only due to the fact that it sounds super catchy, but also because you can just ride this pen whenever you feel like it just like this girl. That’s exactly what pens are for, right? No other need for a pen, especially if you’re a woman, why would you ever have anything important to write anyway?
16. Enthusiastic About Plastic
While visually uncomfortable by today’s standards (and should have been back then too, but that’s besides the point), this ad attests to the family-focused products and advertisements of the mid-20th century. It should go without saying, but please don’t wrap your baby in cellophane, even if you still do believe that the best things in life are wrapped in cellphone. Babies should not fall into this category.
17. An Appliance Alliance
Why get three different machines when you can have three in one? Save money, space, and have all of your dreams come true, just like this advertisement so ‘realistically’ represents. Oh and while you’re at it, having a dream machine that’s got it all – this ad also seems to promise that a beautiful wife will also show up at your door once you get your hands on this machine.
18. A Lemon-Lime Past Time
PepsiCo created this ad in order to market 7-Up as an energy drink. What this basically means is that it’s the very same drink, however with slightly more sugar added. The text makes a reference to bowling twice, which gives you a pretty good idea of their target audience in the 1950s. Anyone looking for a quick and fresh lift should for sure take a few sips.
19. Attack of The Snack
If they were thinking what we’re thinking, this is not the most appropriate sight. Nop, not in the least bit. They most certainly succeeded however in showing us that they’re bananas are super duper tasty and probably had quite the rise in sales. It’s safe to say that they may have gone slightly bananas with this one though.
20. The Joy of The Game
The 1980s were pretty much dominated by video game consoles. As major brands fought for the same customers, advertisers had to think as far outside of the box as possible. This, uh, rather interesting advertisement was designed to promote the addition of a joystick to the SEGA controller in the mid-1980s.
21. That’s One Tough Puff
The outrageous claim made in this advertisement was controversial during its time, too, believe it or not. Tipalet introduced flavored cigarettes, and apparently, this was the most innovative marketing approach they could dream up. Thankfully, modern advertising campaigns have learned how to do things in not only a more effective way, but also a more socially acceptable one too.
22. For Your Inner Wild Child…
Since when does innocence in a child come off as sexy? Last time we checked, it really, really didn’t. Only in the most twisted and disturbed world, and in one that will do anything to sell – which seems to be the one that we once lived in. Although things today are still of course far from perfect, at least such things would never pass.
23. Just Another Mother
American Airlines tried with this campaign to get passengers to believe that they would be given the best possible treatment on board if they were to fly with them. Promising that they will have an experience just as good as home, with all the love and care that their mother would give them. The only difference? Their mother is a whole lot younger and more attractive on board.
24. A Twist of The Wrist
This is how simplicity was once advertised, somehow. To us today it seems rather comical, but these advertisements were unfortunately a reality at the time, and were built off of bringing women down. People didn’t know otherwise, both in terms of what was demeaning, as well as how to create an effective advertisement that wasn’t negative.
25. Clueless To Newness
The dumb blonde stereotype is long, long gone. But back in the day, this was still a strong belief in society and served the purpose of this silly and thoughtless computer advertisement. It just goes to show that the only way to sell was to find mindless ways of showing people that they don’t need to use their mind to work the product.
26. A Trophy Wife For a Tiger Life
Lucky tiger hair wax is what gets you everything you could possibly want. Yes, everything, including a trophy wife. Just apply the wax in your hair and pick any woman you’d like, because that’s completely realistic. Back then, the concept of refund policies wasn’t a thing, so their advertisement campaign proved to be rather successful.
Be happy, get lucky, and just smoke our tobacco. It will surely solve all of your problems, rather than making more of course. No need to think about the health risks that smoking tobacco causes according to this ad, just think about the present and how you’re feeling. Tobacco is here for your instant gratification.
28. Numb The Pain With…
Cocaine derivatives were used in lots of commercial products throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was also the main ingredient in Coca-Cola (hence the name, coca…), and was used for a variety of pain relief purposes. Today, although it may also be used for similar purposes, it’s not something we consider to be safe in a way or medicine.
29. Use Fashion To Catch ’em
Yet another example of an outrageous vintage advert from a time that it pretty much beyond us. Use Jantzen fashion to catch him, and you better do it as fast as possible. Otherwise, you never know what will happen, and where he might end up without the Jantzen swim suit. Lure him in with your brand new bathing suit!
30. A Glass For The Upper-Class
Their cola drink, however, was not for the average consumer. The stark contrast in the Pepsi Cola ad versus the 7-Up ad are examples of the intensely targeted advertisements techniques of major brands. Pepsi was very clearly targeted to be purchased by only the upper class socialities, and surely their advertisement could have justified any price tag.
31. A Vice With a Price
This advertisement is interesting because it essentially asks consumers to choose between the lesser of two deadly diseases – lung cancer or diabetes. While your desserts may not be toasted, at least your cigarettes are! Since when do we live in a world where we’ve got to choose our disease? Can we just back out of everything please?
32. Dinner For The Breadwinner
If your wife burns dinner, apparently beer is an adequate replacement. There’s a lot about this ad that wouldn’t measure up to the cultural standards of today’s print media, but somehow there doesn’t seem to be much *too much* progress in the sector of beer marketing.
33. Top Notch Scotch
This scotch is top notch, and Haig is more than proud to announce that to you. And limits? What does that even mean? Don’t be vague, just listen to us and our every command, do whatever we say, drink our product and ignore everything else. You can trust us, it’s Haig after all. And look at what a perfect beautiful young girl is drinking it too.
34. Baby’s First UV Rays
It’s absolutely safe AND gives you a luxurious golden health tan! Who would have believed?! It’s super safe, in fact so much so, that you can actually place your baby under it. At least science has advanced beyond “harmful burning rays” and “long tanning rays”. Somehow, even today, we’re not quite there despite this ad that has decided that they are.
35. Go Far In This Car
The Pontiac Star Chief promises to take you far, real, real far. Enjoy all that extra leg room, because they know exactly what is missing in your car to make for the most comfortable and pleasurable ride yet. Purchase this car and you never need to worry again – just spread your legs and you will surely fly, in more ways than one.
36. An Up-Front Stunt
Winston is the only cigarette that tastes good, or so they claim it to be. Perhaps this is their subtle way of saying that they know that cigarettes are not the most appetizing product on the market. But they sure show that it will put you before everyone else, because it’s what’s up front that truly counts, right?
37. Shake Up Your Make-Up
Your lips and your body is just as much of a product as a diamond is. Yes, that’s right ladies – do take note. So you’re going to want to make sure it shines brightly just like a diamond. Tangee at least thinks that, and would absolutely love if you decided to believe this too and purchase their unique lipstick product.
38. Booze For The Blues
If you’ve got a case of the blues, maybe all you need is some booze! And it even somehow manages to rhyme too! Phosferine tonic wine could, allegedly, cure ailments such as depression, the flu, a hangover, and is sure to lift you up when you’re feeling “low”. It surely is the only thing that could possibly cure you and bring you back up.
39. Out of The Womb isn’t Too Soon
While the exact Coca-Cola recipe has evolved over time, it’s safe to assume it was never an appropriate beverage for an infant to be consuming, in any way, shape, or form. So to answer the question – infancy. Infancy is too soon. Glad that’s settled. However now may be a little too late to have figured that one out if this ad succeeded in any way.
40. Winning Wieners
These wieners are the winners, with no doubt. They are completely skinless, bare, and are better than all other wieners which tend to be covered in many cases, unfortunately This campaign surely puts a whole lot of thought into this poster and used psychology to reach their audience, probably quite successfully too.
41. King-Sized Carcinogens
Go big, or go home. That’s the only way to go! And the bigger you go, the more power you’ll get, this ad promise you. You’ll be on top of the world, a king, a legend, and all the ladies will be all over you. So no need to keep them to a minimum. That’s exactly what this cigarette advertisement tried to convince all men of.
42. The Belle of The Call
If you want to have fun, enjoy your life, be popular, loved, and have other’s want to stay in touch with you, then these are the outfits you need. Need, got that? They’ve made their point very straightforward, so how could you possibly pass up on being a telephone belle with such a poster? Well, you just can’t.
43. When Interwoven is Chosen…
Who knew socks could be such a game changer? Well, now we now, and especially if they’re presented like this Interwoven ad, then what man wouldn’t want to get instant love for merely keeping his feet warm? Not only warm, but in style too! What a concept. Socks anyone? We’ll take more than just one pair, that’s for sure!
44. Savior Behavior
What a world it was; this was how society advertised take-out food. At this time, it was actually considered rather innovative to even assume that the wife would even potentially need some help in the kitchen. Colonel Sanders quickly learned that men too need to feed their families. How innovative of you Colonel!
45. Soft as a Baby’s… Face
Of course, newborn babies need to start early and get shaving right away, there’s no time to be wasted. After all, they’ve already got tons of facial hair that must be removed. Gillette can be excused due to the early year, where people weren’t yet aware that sharp objects and babies is not the safest combination. At least we can try to assume that.
46. Of Course They Endorse…
Well if doctors are doing it, then, of course, it’s fine. Especially Camel cigarettes, because they surely weren’t paid to promote them. Doctors are loyal and honest people, who have your health and best interests at heart. You can always trust your doctor, so what are you waiting for? This would not be legal today.
47. Decor For The Floor
The ultimate decor for the floor. And better yet, he didn’t even have to shoot her, according to the advertisement. Mr. Leggs slacks, the price might be right, and the wrinkle-resistant feature might be tempting, but this is not the most ideal way to depict a rug. Please do take note to never create this advertisement again.
48. The Juice Is Loose
If some of the most talented athletes encourage it, then why not? You should do the same, too, if you want to succeed, stand out and be out front. It’s the key to winning, the only way. Show them your heels, and be just like O.J. Isn’t that what we all strive for in life anyway? Perhaps fame and attention, but otherwise, the rest – not so much.
49. Better Smell Swell
Anyone with any kinds of brains, despite their beauty, would never think to go out smelling and without a long-lasting deodorant such as this one. Ladies, you must learn the most important rule of charm if you want to get anywhere in life. Really. This advertisement surely got lots of women buying it back then.
50. A Harmless Harness
Believe it or not, seatbelts were already invented at this time, and we are so grateful they exist. This safety harness lots a lot far away from what it claims to be, yet was trying to be something new and exciting that would sell to parents who thought they were providing their child with a harmless and more comfortable alternative.
51. Wealth Over Health
If your Dentist says so, then it must be the way to go, right? Viceroys cigarettes are surely a great option to make sure you have healthy teeth. Thankfully today, things are checked a little more by some real professionals before given permission to be advertised as dentist approved. Anyone who believed this ad could surely testify against it.
52. Single and Ready to Mingle
Hey you over there, you’re still single. We know you want to get married already, you’re getting old, the clock is ticking, and the sea definitely is running out of fish. Well, no stress, all of your problems can be solved if you just get some better breathe and use Listerine at all times. That’s a rather bold way to sell.
53. Action For a Fraction
As a man, Shempley’s knows that you’re all about getting some action. It’s the only thing you could ever possibly care for. And if you’re truly going to be a man of action, then you must take some – and purchase their unique action pants. You dream wife and perfectly groomed dog are waiting for you – Shempley’s promises you. But of course, no refunds.
54. Looks Over Books
Of course we judge a book by its cover, and of course, no one is actually reading it. Everyone is only interested in the cover. So don’t bother reading either or trying to educate yourself because at the end of the day, the most important is your looks. Invest your time and money into beauty products in order to really go far in life. This was not sponsored by the ministry of education.
55. Paint That Makes You Faint
Lead has somehow been used for nearly 9,000 years, despite the fact humans are well aware of the negative effects that come together with it. People are attracted to its malleability and availability, and even more so with the grown-up metal paint book. Especially with an adorable ad such as this one, how could we not?
56. The Meaning of Cleaning
You better protect yourself before you allow your life to be ruined, is what this advertisement is trying to convince you of. Make sure you keep yourself clean or your husband will leave you indefinitely. This redefines the meaning of cleaning, taking it to a whole new level. Without Lysol, a Shipwreck is surely bound to happen – so check yourself before you wreck yourself ladies.
57. Native is Not Creative
The Van Heunsen clothing line has so eloquently created an advertisement, similar to many of its time, that touches on the desire for male power while putting down women in the making. If you wear their unique native clothing, then you will be special, will have no worries and women will go crazy over you.
58. Not-So-Dandy Candy
It makes a whole lot of sense that young children would be begging their parents for laxatives, right?. Not, majorly not. Hopefully, no parents gave their children too many of these less than dandy candies, that doesn’t sound too promising. These quotes used in the advertisement were surely never said by any kid, ever.
59. Equating and Degrading
It doesn’t get more degrading than this, now does it? If you can think of any way that it does, then please, don’t ever share it with anyone, ever, because it’s bound to be beyond terrible. Silva Thins, if your cigarettes are thin and rich, then that’s great for you – but please don’t try to encourage women that this is the only way to go.
60. Pre-Presidential Product Placement
What could possibly be merrier than this cheery hunk surrounded by boxes upon boxes of gifts? And what could possibly bring in the holiday spirit more than some toxic chemicals to put in your body? Especially when they’re from President Reagan. That’s quite the product placement for a cigarette company.
61. Fun for Everyone
This may in a very strange way be an attempt to be equal to all genders, but it is not a very successful one, not in the least bit. While trying to promote more female power, it seems rather degrading. Well, hopefully, these candies were at least fun for all sexes. We hope that women found themselves other more creative ways to find courage.
62. Simplistic and Chauvinistic
When you want to advertise simplicity, then why not just place the face of a woman? Oh right, because it’s so totally and completely chauvinistic. Either way, men are the ones looking for the simple ride. Well, what does that tell you about their driving. Ah, ha, we’re onto you silly men. Perhaps you should stop yourselves while you’re at.
63. Bold and Controlled
Van Heusen would like all of its male customers to know that by wearing their shirts, they can have all of the power and control they could ever possibly dream of. Somehow though, they didn’t do it in the most appropriate and respectful manner. Somehow. Probably because it was an ad from back in the day where no one knew any better.
64. A Selective Objective
Eastern Airlines would like to make it clear that they’ve got a very, very selective objective. They’ve done so by presenting the losers, the girls who didn’t quite make the cut to working for their airline as stewardesses. A rather interesting approach to advertising, perhaps one to play with the minds of young girls to attempt to prove how amazing and perfect they truly are.
65. An Oppression Obsession
Parents! Please! Once and for all, do your simple job right – teach your son to be a real man. This war poster trying to encourage parents to get their young sons to engage in as many manly activities as possible to avoid being too feminine is sexism at it’s finest. Nonetheless, this is what was going around at the time, unfortunately.
66. A Warning For Your Morning
Ovaltine would like to warn all women that without their chocolately, perk-me-up drink, that you’re doomed for failure in the mornings. What do you have to lose? Not only is it delicious and filled with sweet chocolate, but it will also save you from potential disaster due to the inevitable fatigue that will hit you since you are a woman.
67. This Generation Needs Education
We need to educate our new generation on the most important things in life. Makes sense. However drinking a beer with your grandfather isn’t the most common practice, not nowadays at least. It might be a little bit early to start encouraging our children to consume alcohol, especially not instead of medicine. But hey, to each their own, right?
68. The Goodness of Guinness
It’s the only goodness in the world, and it simply can’t be passed up. Guinness beer must be consumed in large quantities. What else could a person possibly need in life, right? Nothing else other than some nice ice cold beer for the soul, and it could also maybe bring you a beautiful girl too, according to the ad at least.
69. As-Best-As it Gets
Only a couple of decades after this advertisement was produced, Asbestos was found to be highly toxic and associated with a variety of debilitating health problems. The US government is still cleaning up the Asbestos mess of the early 1900s, and were sure that this ad is among the things that must go far, far away.