As a marketing consultant, there are days when I love what I do. It’s great to be able to help a company better understand what their clients want, or find ways to make better use of their resources.
On the other hand, there are days when I come across some unseemly hucksterism passing itself off as marketing and sales, and I have to stop and ask myself, “Do I ever do that?” Fortunately, my first business lessons came from my parents, who taught us that no profit is worth your self-respect. If you don’t truly believe something is right and good, then don’t do it. That’s a pretty simple rule that will serve anyone well, no matter what your line of business.
But every now and then, I come across an ad so weird or even disturbing that my first reaction is to just shake my head and think I need to find another line of work. Ads from bygone days are especially likely to come across in a whole new way as our society and industry standards change. While some of these may be funny, some can be far from from it. However, there is value in looking back on them and realizing just how far our society has come in the past 40 or 50 years. It’s also helpful to realize that, while these ads were widely accepted when they came out, they are now just as universally seen as scary. So maybe the news is not all bad after all.
So with all that said, I offer two ads in this post, and will have more in each of the others in this series, as we reflect on what once was, and just how much our standards have shifted. These two are both soft-drink ads focusing on babies, and you can click on each to have them open in a larger window.
Here’s the first:
In case you can’t read the small print, how about these assertions:
- “Laboratory tests over the last few years have proven that babies that 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.” [emphasis mine.]
And here’s the second:
Again, in case you can’t read the small print, check out this parenting advice:
- “This young man is 11 months old — and he isn’t our youngest customer by any means. For 7-Up is so pure, so wholesome, you can even give it to babies and feel good about it… By the way, Mom, when it comes to toddlers—if they like to be coaxed to drink their milk, try this: Add 7-Up to the milk in equal parts, pouring the 7-Up gently into the milk. It’s a wholesome combination—and it works!”
Make no wonder there was a whole generation of North Americans with a mouth full of dental fillings!
The question that always runs through my head whenever I see old ads like these is, “Are we doing things now that will be decried as just as horrifying in another 50 years or so?”
How about you? What do you think? Are there ads you see — whether from yesterday or today — that strike you as destined for the Advertising Hall of Horrors?
Vent with a comment below, and then take a look at the next dark installment of the Advertising Hall of Horrors!