Remember that ad campaign from the 1950s? The one with the animated boxes of high-caloric snacks parading across movie screens? Innocent at the time, it now seems slightly sinister when you realize just how much crappy stuff folks were pounding back with each tub of popcorn or cup of soda. Of course, the serving sizes were smaller than today’s gargantuan servings, but it’s the demented joviality of an ad telling us to consume junk food that really seems so odd. Or maybe it’s just the sight of a dancing bag of popcorn that gives me the creeps.
In these days of cultural and medical sensitivities, it’s an interesting and hilariously horrifying exercise to look back at the ad campaigns of the Mad Men era. These were the Wild West days of advertising, where just about anything was acceptable to push a product down our naive little consumerist throats. Hey! It was the 50’s and early 60’s, a seemingly golden time of prosperity and peace, and the rising middle class. We were buying into a lifestyle and, as they have always done, advertisers were hell-bent on luring us into consuming their products.
Some of the most prolific and bizarre ads – at least to our modern eyes – were the smoking ads. Using movies stars to promote smoking was a popular technique, including stars who would be future presidents.
Even doctors were getting into the act. After all, if your doctor smokes, how could it be bad for you?
Babies have always been popular vehicles to sell products, even cigarettes.
Really, Mom. Just light up the damn cigarette! It’s either that or scream at your kid. Who knew that cigarettes could prevent child abuse?
Of course, companies have been using babies to sell products for decades. Here’s an even earlier example that expounds the health benefits of beer for both mother and child.
And we ALL know how good sugar is for babies, right?
Whew! And if you survived all the smoking, drinking, and junk food consumption, who knows what shape you’d be in when reached your Golden Years? Not to worry. The advertisers had a solution for that, too.
From cradle to grave, the Larry Tates and the Don Drapers of the world were looking out for us. Of course, that kind of silly, obvious advertising would never work on us today, now would it?