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5 Vintage Ads or How Much World Has Changed

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5 Vintage Ads or How Much World Has Changed

“To know your future you must know your past”  George Santayana


I was a fan of “Mad Men” for a while, it seems so exciting to work in that era of large advertising agencies which in turn have allot to do with marketing models of today. I will probably not going to tear things done in the old days too much. Many practices to be considered normal today is going to repel our grandchildren anyway. Social dynamics forming our tastes and preferences, go through phases all the time. The world always has new enemies, outcasts, norms, fashionable products, music, social subcultures. I dare you to give now popular Trap music to seniors and slowly enjoy their facial expression. However, some of old ads are so shocking that we need to keep reminding ourselves not to step on the same rake twice.

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1. Cocaine Toothache Drops

In 1885 This product was sold by most chemists. In the late nineteenth century, cocaine was in great interest to medical Profession. Product below was developed by Lloyds as a local anesthetic, and yes, this is the same Lloyds pharmacies we have today. Apart from relieving toothache for the children it seemed to get their mood up. At that time giving cocaine to children was even considered to be very modern and advanced, but very hard to process with my 21 century brain. Advert above, due to the time it was used is hard to find origin for, but it’s also possible for it to be a label on a tin or bottle.

2. Doctors Smoke Camel

With this campaign, we time travel to 1949 at a time no authorities were present to protect consumers from misleading advertising. R.J. Reynolds experimented with using physicians to prove public, that smoking is not dangerous at all. Even if at a time it was considered not ethical for a medical profession endorse advertising, brand got away with a lot, maybe because it portrayed doctors in a very favorable light. Particular ad is one of the series used in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Imagine, the campaign ran for 9 years since 1940. It seems that such claims won’t be allowed today, but sadly cosmetics and drug companies use it all the time, they only got smarter how to hide claims in small font or pre selected research groups.

3. DuPont Cellophane

DuPont acquired U.S. patent rights for cellophane in 1923 and, a year later, built the first cellophane manufacturing plant in the US. It took a long time to experiment with marketing, and it shows, I am not quite sure what were they thinking wrapping children in a plastic wrap. The goal of the campaign was to prove the safety of cellophane to the public and make it into the everyday household item. In 1938 25 percent of DuPont’s annual profit came from this miracle and does not matter how bizarre those ads seems to us, they worked. However this might be a reason of current suffocation warning on almost everything made from thin plastic.


4. Schlitz – You Didn’t Burn the Beer 

Ah, those old times, no political correctness at all. I found so much advertising insulting race, sex and religions, enough to make a separate book, this is actually one of the nicer ones. Produced in the U.S. in 1952 by Schlitz, this advert and marketing campaign was actually targeted at women, particularly young and newly wedded. The language used ‘darling” portrayed a “weak” nature of the females who needs to be comforted. Clothes worn by a woman made her a homemaker and man as a breadwinner. But there are enough negative stereotypes targeting men, how gents of today think if the only way to keep them happy would be beer. However glorifying one sex in expense of the other is still common today, but this time ball plays in the other field as often. Greame Newell has plenty to contribute to the topic of the emotional advertising and how brands exploit our deep wiring for the “Battle of Sexes”

5. Sega The More You Play With It…

Did you ever wonder why we use Sony and Xbox now? For a long while other players like Sega had dominated the market and I even remember owning one. This advert was aimed at the UK market and even its clear these ads meth to be shocking, I actually feel bad for Sega as this try was clearly overkill. However, currently very obvious console war, has been always there fighting for the dollar of the consumer and sometimes pushing their advertising message a little bit too far. Another possible reason for such a shocking message could be cultural differences between Japan and the Western World,most of advertising done in the Land of Rising Sun still is a mystery to me and has a solid place in my to-do list trying to understand the reason and the origins of such debatable choices.


I never liked history in school. For a young mind it seemed too distant, unnecessary, sad and warped. Problem was, I was reading with no passion, not that is not important to know your origins, far from that. To be interested in topic and have constant intake of dopamine to keep you researching, needs genuine sympathy for the topic. Looking back to history of advertising entertains me and gives ideas. It adds to my understanding of logic and patterns for certain marketing actions in different times, and off course consequences of certain decisions. To be honest marketers of those times did not had an access to information or tools we have. Often advertising was treated like a gamble and there is nothing better to sum that up as quote of marketing pioneer John Wanamaker:

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half”.

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