A few days ago we presented the Advertising Hall of Horrors (Part 1). Brace yourselves… it’s time to step back into our advertising time machine and be shocked by Part 2…
The 40s, 50s and 60s were days of suburbia and homes springing up everywhere with their white picket fences and happy families with their 2.4 kids. One little boy, one little girl, and… 40% of something else, I guess. But as happy as everything seemed on the sitcoms, it was a disturbing world by many of today’s standards, as we see in the ads of those days.
Let’s take a look at our first two… with their stereotypes aplenty. First up, the Kenmore Chef:
And what’s a chef without ketchup (or catsup)? So here’s the second:
In case you can’t read the small print, here’s the title and first paragraph:
- “You mean a woman can open it? Easily—without a knife blade, a bottle opener, or even a husband! All it takes is a dainty grip, an easy, two-finger twist—and the catsup is ready to pour.”
It seems that those quaint little homes of the era held some darker secrets as well. Ads targeting both men and women were not above some “humorous” references to domestic violence, as we see in the next two samples:
And for an early version of “going postal,” how about this ad of an executive’s frustration over an assistant who just doesn’t seem to share his respect for the new Pitney Bowes postal meter:
There are all sorts of questions and observations that spring up from ads like these, not only about advertising effectiveness, but about society in general. What impact did such stereotypes have on the self-respect and career aspirations of the girls and women of the time? Did many women of that era find these ads offensive? Did many man? And from a pure advertising perspective, were these ads controversial at the time, or did they just fit in comfortably with the cultural norms of their day?
There are many ads today that still arouse concerns over their sexist viewpoints or stereotypes. Some undoubtedly choose to do so as a means of grabbing attention. However, others still appear from time to time that seem to somehow create controversy without ever having anticipated it.
What are the ads that stand out to you in today’s mix? Are there any that seem especially misdirected or even malicious? What do you think of these past ads and norms? Harmless fun or damaging limits being imposed? The comment box is waiting to hear from you, and you can then check out the Advertising Hall of Horrors (Part 3)!
Ken O'Brien says
Interesting ads. Shocking to modern eyes.
I notice that home cleaning products are still usually targeted at women. One TV ad shows a man and his son playing with a bowl of salsa, sliding it back and forth across a white countertop. When they accidentally spill it, the woman appears and cleans the mess using a paper towel. Why can’t the man show his son how to clean up their mess?
Lorne Pike says
Good question, Ken. Even with the advances, there’s still a lot of gender-based roles out there. As I mentioned in one of these Hall of Horrors posts, I often wonder whether people in 30 years’ time will look back at our ads today as being just as shocking as we view these old ads!