We live in a world full of advertising, and while most of us would assume that this is a relatively new addition to our lives, that just isn’t the case. Yes, advertising has been around for hundreds of years, and there’s no doubt about the fact that it has changed over the course of ad history. Some of them have changed so much that these vintage ads would totally be banned today.
The ideal brain tonic
Over the years, many products have stayed the same – but their branding and their advertising have changed. This has also been the case for a well-known soda company. While we now know it as one of the most popular sodas in the world that doesn’t really need to promote itself, it obviously wanted to stand out from the crowd back in the late 1890s.
That’s because this soda was actually advertised as a “Brain Tonic,” and supposedly relieved headaches, mental exhaustion, and physical exhaustion. We would love to see the science behind that.
How soon is too soon?
While most people are familiar with this specific drink, it’s long been held that the sugar content, the fizziness, and the overall ingredients within this brand of soda shouldn’t be consumed on a regular basis.
So, what do you think of this vintage ad? According to the text, drinking this type of soda during the “early formative period” will allow kids to fit in better than those who don’t. We’re not quite sure how laboratory tests would have been able to come to that conclusion.
A little miss
Well, you probably don’t need us to tell you that this ad would cause an uproar if it were released today. There are so many stereotypes in this advert released in the late 1940s, and they serve both men and women.
For starters, it seems as though there is no other place for a woman back in this era than in the kitchen – and that’s before you get to the men. According to this advert, men are completely incapable of cooking themselves their own dinner. Who would have thought it?
The only role
When you look back at vintage ads from the past, there’s definitely a theme. This theme normally involves women who only dream of finding a husband and cooking and cleaning for him for the rest of eternity.
While we now accept a more diverse woman and diverse relationships, this ad from 1928 really hit home the importance of marriage for young women. In particular, the mouthwash ad warned young women that they would always be the bridesmaid if they continued to have bad breath…
A bizarre turn of events
One of the first rules of advertising is to ensure that your product appeals to everyone. Of course, there are always going to be products out there that can’t be used by everyone.
While the marketing team behind this hairdryer could have just accepted that fact back in 1972, they instead decided to work with it. They used a bald model to promote their new Flip ‘N Style hairdryer, and they hoped that there really would be bald people out there who would buy it because it was “fun to have.”
All about the morning mouth
Everyone knows that morning breath is something that you can’t control. We doubt that anyone would purposefully give themselves this morning breath, but it seems as though this was of vital importance back in 1953.
That’s because women should have known better, right? They should have sorted their morning breath as soon as they could and avoided it at all costs. After all, how else would they be able to get a man to fall in love with them? This particular mask is more inappropriate than it is scary.
Better marks at school
Over the past few decades, television has become a huge part of our lives. Most of us watch television when we get home from work, and we use it to wind down after a long day.
Of course, most parents also try and limit the amount of television that their children watch, as they don’t want them to be distracted from the real world. This particular vintage ad didn’t think that way, though. It encouraged children to watch as much television as possible to improve their marks at school.
Sleeping under the sun
New parents are always looking for advice and products that will help them raise their children as happy and as healthily as possible, which is why advertising directed towards parents is always very successful.
However, it can also be pretty controversial. We have a feeling that this advert from the 1930s caused a few arguments, as it encourages parents to buy sun-lamp that their child could sleep under. That probably wouldn’t fly today, and we doubt anyone would want to buy it for their precious child or children.
Losing in a minute
It seems as though the men of the past had a real thing about bad breath, and they wouldn’t give any woman a chance if they had a little stink coming from their facial area.
In fact, this mouthwash advert went as far as to say that a woman with bad breath would lose their husband in a minute if he were faced with a wife with bad breath and another woman with clean breath. Many women would have something to say about this advert if it were released today.
An incredible turn of events
This advert was first released in 1953, and while it went unnoticed and unquestioned for a few years, it has since become the center of much controversy. After all, you know you’re controversial when you have your own Wikipedia page!
This particular advertisement was designed to showcase the brand new twist-off bottle cap on a particular brands’ products, and it stated that it was so easy to open that even women could open it. The ad and the brand have since been slated by women across the globe.
Smell you later
Although most people use deodorant, it seems as though advertising companies and brands really went to town with their adverts back in the day. In this instance, this deodorant company really wanted to hit home the notion that smelly women would push away their husbands.
In their eyes, a deodorant failure would rob a woman of her popularity, so the only way to get that popularity back would be to buy this specific deodorant and keep her marriage alive. It was certainly a strong message.
The first rule
Back in the day, it seemed as though there were many products aimed primarily towards women. Perhaps this had something to do with the fact that these advertising companies believed that women were “beautiful but dumb” and would buy anything they told them to.
In this case, the deodorant brand believed that the first rule of lasting charm and attracting a husband was to smell good. Without their deodorant, they would never find a husband, right? Although we may scoff now, these ads really were out there.
The ultimate beautifier
Today, the world of advertising is full of products that aim to make you look younger, reduce your wrinkles, and cover up any imperfections. While things haven’t changed too much since the decades past, there have been a few slight changes in terms of the product.
In fact, this advert was released in 1890, and we have a feeling that the product wouldn’t sell too well today. That’s because this “Chin Reducer and Beautifier” looks pretty painful, no matter how many double chins it says it reduces.
Perfect and petite
While there have always been certain obvious biological differences between men and women, the size of hands has never normally been a matter of debate in the modern world. Yet, it seems as though that hasn’t always been the case.
This advert was released in 1965 and boasted a product designed specifically for women and their perfectly petite hands. Of course, this probably wouldn’t be advertised today, especially since people wouldn’t help but acknowledge that men and women sometimes have the same size hands.
Getting them signed up
The military has often used advertising and slogans to entice people to join their ranks, and it seems as though this has been the case for decades. In fact, this is one of the many adverts released over the course of history, and we have a feeling that it was designed to shame men into joining.
After all, if the women who were deemed “weak” wanted to join, then who were they to stay at home and do nothing? This ad seems almost funny today, as so many women are serving their country in the US army – and yes, in the Navy too.
It’s a wifesaver
During the 1900s, the advertising for household appliances and goods were largely directed at women. In the eyes of these advertising companies, they were the only people who were going to be using such an item, so they were their target market.
While women did use these appliances and still do today, it’s safe to say that we have a better understanding of equality in the kitchen. While this oven may have been a wifesaver, it could also be a husbandsaver, and general humansaver if it really wanted to be.
For simple driving
Although most people don’t need too much persuading to buy a car, it’s fair to say that there have still been countless car advertisements across history. Many of these have been directed at both men and women, but many of them were directed just at women in the 1960s.
This one is the perfect example of that, as this Mini automatic was advertised using the help and the beauty of Goldie Hawn. Of course, this ad latched onto the stereotype that women aren’t good drivers and ultimately need to have things simplified for them.
Begin early, shave yourself
The world of advertising is a confusing world, and it seems as though some decisions don’t get the full once-over that they really need. By just asking themselves whether an ad really works or not, these companies could really save themselves a whole load of trouble.
However, it seems as though the company behind this razor ad didn’t think about that. Instead, they decided to use a child who doesn’t have any hair to promote their safety razor. No matter how safe it is, no parent should put a razor anywhere near their child.
Household appliances are still advertised today, but it’s fair to say that most people buy them without being bowled over by the advertising behind it. After all, we live in a world full of electronics, and we now use appliance after appliance to ensure that our needs are met.
Things were a little different back in the day when ads like this one were released. Once again, this ad focuses on the female stereotype that women are the only ones in the kitchen – which most of us know to be untrue today.
Caught in the act
Although we now live in a world where women don’t feel as though they have to get married to feel like a real human being, adverts years ago told a different story.
These adverts pushed the idea that women needed to find themselves a man if they didn’t want to be all alone, and this was one of them. In fact, this ad noted that a woman just needed a plate of delicious donuts to tempt a potential man, and the shackles behind her back suggest that there is something more sinister going on.
Better than women
Despite the fact that many of the vintage adverts we have seen on this list have been pretty insulting but in a subtle manner, this 1959 advert is a little different. Instead of beating around the bush, this ad just goes ahead and suggests that men are better than women and that women are only useful indoors.
When it comes to the outside world and wearing manly sweaters, men are the only ones who can properly wear them, right? We can guarantee that people would have something to say about that today.
The youngest customers
Nowadays, most people probably wouldn’t let their young child to drink soda on a regular basis – but it seems as though that wasn’t the case in 1955. This advert showcased an 11-month-old child who is also one of the “youngest customers” for this soda company, as it wasn’t yet considered to be unhealthy for toddlers.
Apparently, one of the best ways for parents to get their child to drink their milk is to mix it with this soda and to watch as their child loves every second of it. Today, these ads are directed more towards adults, and probably with good reason.
Best things in life
While some people go by the rule that the best things in life are free, this company decided to go by the notion that “The best things in life come in Cellophane.”
When creating this advert, this company could have gone with anything to showcase their idea. They could have wrapped chocolate in the product, they could have wrapped presents in the product, and they could have wrapped any other inanimate object in the product. Instead, they decided to go with a baby.
The importance of vitamins
We all know that vitamins improve our health and our genuine wellbeing, but that doesn’t stop companies from advertising their product to the world. The same happened during the mid-1900s when companies tried to get people to buy their vitamins.
As you can see, this particular company decided to focus their attention on women and opted for something that was supposed to catch their eye. After all, what woman didn’t want to look cute for her husband because she was just working so hard?
Needing the energy
As a society, we now know that giving children candy filled with E numbers does nothing for the fact that most parents want to keep their kids tame and quiet. However, it seems as though this company wanted to spread a different message in the past.
Instead of showcasing this candy in a negative light, they instead showcased the candy in a positive light. They suggested that kids need the energy that candy gives, and those who are good parents will always buy their kids candy. Thank goodness we now know differently.
Utterly wasted charm
Most people wear deodorant in today’s day and age, and they choose their deodorant based on previous experience, the smell, and the price. Because of this, advertising is normally pretty scarce, as companies can rely on returning customers and the large number of people who wear it.
Yet, things were a little different back in the day. That’s because this deodorant company decided to let the women of the world know that their charms meant nothing if they didn’t smell nice.
A new fashion book
The human population comes in all shapes and sizes, and while we are still on our way to accepting that, this advert would cause a ruckus if it were released today.
That’s because the way that we use words and descriptions to talk about certain people has changed – and we no longer find it appropriate to call people “Chubby.” This company didn’t care about that in the 1960s, as they were more than happy to advertise their products to those who were a bit larger than “regular sizes.”
Where a marriage thrives
Pyrex has been around for a long time. They make a solid glass pan, but their advertising hasn’t always been what it is today.
This ad talks about how marriages are at their best when they start in the kitchen and goes on to display a woman in her full wedding dress (complete with veil and apron) as she grabs something hot out of the oven. We have so many questions – how is that dress not on fire, especially since she’s looking at her man and not the dish?
Wine to ease your troubles
This ad seems to explicitly advertise wine as a solution to depression. To be fair, it’s not that far off from the truth, but we wouldn’t call it a solution.
While it’s totally fine to enjoy your choice of white, red, or rose, imagine being a brand that could boldly claim to offer mental health remedies with a glass of their finest. However, the drink is described as “cheering and comforting,” which still feels accurate for us now.
What’s the deal with DDT?
This one is a tongue-twister. Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane is a chemical insecticide that was used a long time ago. Due to its lack of taste, color, and odor, people thought it was relatively harmless. However, today we know that the impact on our environment was lethal. This ad is for using DDT as a cleaner, showing it as a superior option for health and safety.
Today, we know differently. Did you know that this insecticide was also used in dairy, veggie, meat and other food products?
Everyone loves some KFC
KFC has been around for a long time, and it’s been an advertising force of nature for many years. Takeout options are a yummy and appealing option for many, as is the irresistible entree of fried chicken for dinner.
This ad is based on the assumption that all women cook dinner for their men, and can opt for a fast-food alternative if they’re too tired to cook. At least he acknowledged working women in the ad!
Pretty or clever – what’s the winner?
This advertisement featured a seductress sitting at her vanity and playfully looking back at the camera. The text that goes with the ad discusses how men are mostly curious about a woman’s appearances rather than her wit and intelligence.
We think that anyone who has a crush on Hermione from Harry Potter would beg to differ, but it was a different time back then. Beauty brands today still have controversial marketing tactics – it’s the nature of the beast.
Breakfast in bed
We’re not sure what this ad is for, but without the food, it basically looks like this woman is praying to her husband. With another not very politically correct housewife stereotype, we wonder if there were any guidelines or limits on advertisements back in the day.
The logistics of this image are also questionable – how does one balance a pot of tea, coffee, and breakfast while kneeling like that? She has quite a strong core and hands that refuse to shake!
Cleaning burns calories
You can find many educational reads today that explain cleaning up around the house and doing chores is a good way to keep moving and stay fit. This ad made sure to say it plain and simple – if you clean your house, you’ll lose weight.
This ad was for cereal, which apparently keeps this housewife’s scale number low while giving the energy to make her house sparkling for the whole family. In today’s body-positive environment, this commercial wouldn’t fly.
The center of attention
Advertising companies often use beautiful people to promote their products. In today’s day and age, however, this is normally much more subtle than it was back in the day. Don’t believe us?
Just take a look at this vintage ad from 1959. While this advert was actually advertising a color projector slide, you wouldn’t have thought that from the content of this advert. That’s because Sabrina seems to be the main focus of the picture and the presentation, and the projector more of an afterthought.
Four good reasons
This familiar airline advertises itself today by mentioning their good service and reasonable prices as strength points. Today, airlines advertise their companies every single day, they normally do so by promoting the places they go, the luxury they provide onboard, or their prices.
Back in the day, however, they didn’t focus as much on prices, locations, or luxury. They instead focused on their flight attendants and hoped they would help sell the tickets – which was much more suited to that particular time than today.
Breakfast for champions
This advertisement was made for nausea medication, meant to be used for women during pregnancy. You’d think that they’d market it to the women, who would gladly go through less pain and stress when carrying their child.
However, this ad seems to be targeting men, who have been missing out on many a delicious home-cooked breakfast. With these meds, she’ll be back to normal and doing her duties, such as cooking breakfast, in no time.
Stock up on mints, or get the boot
This poster seems to infer that infidelity is a common thing for a man to do (even a “funny” one) and that if you don’t fix your bad breath ASAP, he’s going to be smooching some other lady in the near future.
In today’s society, this wouldn’t be alright to insinuate, since it’s basically condoning cheating, But back then, we guess it was an effective way to get women to keep their teeth sparkling and breath minty fresh at all times possible.
Just what she wanted – a new way to clean
Whoever Jean is, her mind is probably on her pregnancy, rather than new cleaning appliances. Instead of focusing on keeping Jean comfortable, her husband wants to come home to clean clothes.
He thinks he’s helping out by making her life easier with a snazzy new washer dryer rather than doing a load of laundry himself. We’re not positive about how happy she is, but at least he still called her pretty. Today, domestic duties have shifted, and you wouldn’t see this advertisement.
King of the household
The writers in this denim ad thought it would be funny to talk about pants both literally and metaphorically in the tagline. As a wife, she might not wear the pants, but she certainly spends her precious time purchasing work clothes for her husband, just like many women of the era.
This doesn’t seem that out of the norm for the 1940s, but we at least hope she’s getting a brand new pair of jeans out of it as well.
A new vacuum for Christmas
Ah, what every woman dreams of – a new vacuum for Christmas. According to the men of the past, women are obsessed with cleaning, and their all-time favorite pastime is caring for their home.
While we’re sure this woman would love to kick back and relax on the couch once in a while as her husband gets to do, but at least he invested in the brand name instead of going the cheap route with a generic.
When something’s off at the picnic
Even though this wife went out of her way to organize an amazing and appetizing picnic at the park with her husband, all he can focus on is her outfit.
She has gaps in her skirt that require a fastener, but we bet that she let it slide every time she saw him with his fly down. Even on a sunny day eating a sandwich, when he shouldn’t have a care in the world, his priority is a wardrobe malfunction. Interesting!
Come get trapped in my web
This ad for better breath shamelessly mentions a mistress as a warning tale for wives – if you don’t stay regular on those breath-mints, and the “attractive women he meets during the day” do, you’re in for some competition.
Pictured is a vixen just waiting to snare a man into her spider web. Honestly, we’d steer clear of a woman surrounded with spiderwebs rather than one who simply has bad breath, but to each his own.
An awful shoe ad
If there was ever an ad that really exemplified just how much societal standards around gender have shifted, it’s this one. It’s trying to sell shoes by showing that women will be so impressed with your footwear that they will literally be at your feet. It then goes to imply that this is where women belong: at the feet of men.
This is a horribly sexist concept that we hope no one still believes, although it is pretty shocking to think an ad like this ever even existed. Just awful.
This one is less offensive and more just straight up weird. It’s obviously French, as saucisson is French for sausage, and maybe that explains it? Perhaps the cultural standards for advertising are just different over there. We’re not sure. What we do know is that an ad this creepy wouldn’t really exist today. It could be worse, we suppose, but something about it really rubs us the wrong way.
It’s also not really very appetizing, either. We don’t wanna eat sausage if that’s how it’s being made, to be quite honest.
What wives are for
Back a few decades ago, the idea of a grown, single woman was basically unheard of. A woman’s mission in life was to marry a man. The idea of a working married woman was also pretty novel at the time. This meant that women were basically expected to just serve their husband while he worked.
This has obviously changed over time, so it’s a bit crazy to look back at ads that blatantly show off that mindset. This one clearly states a wife’s job is to cook. Also, why can’t a man use a Kenwood Chef?!
A vintage Camel ad
The way people think about cigarettes have changed perhaps even more drastically than the way people think about gender. Back in the day, everybody smoked cigarettes. And we really mean everybody! Old people, children, working folk, high class folk, everybody had a favorite cigarette brand. People weren’t quite as aware of the adverse health effects as they are now, and cigarettes were advertised as one of the coolest products on the planet.
You had to smoke to be cool! This ad tells you that doctors love smoking Camel cigarettes, which is obviously something that wouldn’t be said today.
Camel just doesn’t stop
Here’s another version of the aforementioned Camel ad. It’s hard to pinpoint a date on this one, but it’s hard to imagine that there was ever a point in history where doctors would admit to smoking cigarettes. Perhaps no one really knew just how damaging to your system cigarettes could be, but they are definitely aware now.
These days a doctor will never recommend smoking to you, let alone a specific brand! Perhaps we will one day look back at vaping ads like this, if we find that they are damaging to your health.
Blow in her face
The idea of women basically only existing to serve men was a very common one back in the day. This ad not only plays upon that idea, but it also is just freaking weird in general. Seriously, can you imagine a woman today finding it attractive for a man to blow smoke in her face? That’s pretty universally recognized as a rude gesture, right?
We’re pretty sure there’s a scene in Breaking Bad where a gangster does that to someone in order to tick them off. Notice a complete lack of health warnings, as well.
Okay, these old cigarette ads are just bizarre. Do cigarette ads even really exist anymore? The only commercials we can remember seeing involving cigarettes these days are those disturbing ones that are meant to scare you away from smoking. We’d never see Santa Clause smoking a cig in an ad these days. Besides, the guy isn’t exactly in prime health, so smoking could really take a toll on ol’ Saint Nick.
He needs healthy lungs to quickly fly across the world and lug around our presents, too. What an unrealistic advertisement.
Uh, yes, yes it is
Of all of the advertisement titles that we’ve seen so far, this one might just be the most disturbing. What kind of messed up question is that? We understand that it’s part of the story that follows, but jeez, that doesn’t make it any better. The story itself is pretty awful, talking about a businessman that is fed up with one of his female workers.
On what earth is a good advertising tactic to publicly wonder about the legality of killing women? We’re not really sure how the shock value ties into selling a postage meter of all things….
A bit too racy
When computers and other new technology were first starting to come out, advertisers tried a lot of different tactics to sell them. The normal tactic of just putting pretty women on the ads didn’t work as well as usual, as the main demographic was nerdy guys. This ad still tried however, and it feels oh so cringey as a result.
It does a good job of highlighting all the features of his computer, but still, we could have gone without the weird, physically-charged photo at the top of the ad.
It gets worse
Just when we thought that computer ads couldn’t really get any worse or any racier… we see this one. We have no idea what advertising executive thought it was a great idea to put a half naked dude on a computer ad, but here we are. We understand the joke between Apple the brand and apple the fruit that Adam and Eve had history with, but the comedy doesn’t make the ad any less weird.
It’s less that this ad would be banned today and more that most tech ads are much classier than this.
One strategy that advertisers often use, particularly when marketing products to women, is shame. They try to make them feel as bad about themselves as possible before offering them a product that will fix whatever it is that they now think is wrong with them. That’s exactly what’s going on here. In order to make women buy shampoo, this ad tries to convince you that your hair smells absolutely terrible without.
We don’t know about you guys, but we’ve never really noticed the odor of most people’s hair. Maybe we just aren’t sniffing it enough?
Way too skinny
Speaking of shame, here we go again with advertisers praying upon the insecurity of women. This was nothing new at this point, nor is it something that is completely gone these days, but this is a particularly egregious example. They literally included a comic of an emaciated girl in order to convince women that being skinny wasn’t attractive.
Pictures like this really highlight just how ridiculous the body standards are for women. While they are slightly better now than they used to be, they are still pretty darn bad.
Fired because of her gray hair
Let the great shame train continue! In this ad, a company is trying to sell hair dye based on the idea that gray hair is not only unattractive, but also unprofessional. It’s pretty awful to think that they would try to assert that you would lose your job because of natural aging processes, but at this point we are hardly surprised by any of these ads.
Hair dye ads today are far more positive, and while we could imagine this still flying today, it doesn’t seem like the most likely ad to come across in Target or wherever else.
Red, dishwashy hands
We aren’t entirely sure what this ad is for (maybe some type of hand cream?), but it has the same type of shame-inducing sexism that is rampant in the rest of these ads. In the story presented in this ad, the woman is sad because her hands are too red from washing dishes all day. Not only does this assert that all women do is wash dishes, but it also manages to once again shame women for looking in particular ways.
Also, make hubby do some dishes next time, girl.
If any ad perfectly encapsulates the attitude of the rest of these, it’s this one. It very boldly states that women should not be pear shaped. It doesn’t even attempt to hide or mask its very obvious sexism. It instead just barrels full steam ahead and relies solely on shaming women based on their body type. Ads these days, while not perfect, take a much more optimistic viewpoint on subjects like this.
It’s always sad to see such negativity from the past, but we can take slight solace in the fact that things are a bit better now.