Oh advertising, it’s been around as long as there’s been consumers. Originally, it was just word of mouth, maybe a few posters, that spread the news. But now, corporations shell out tons of money pushing their products in all forms of media. And, as it turns out, a lot of those ads used to be… pretty bad. Like, it’d be hard to even look at them. Here are cringeworthy ads from the past that were all too real.
Keep Her Where She Belongs
There’s going to be a pretty common theme here. And that theme is sexism. The idea behind this ad was that a man, as a gift most likely, would get a shoe so good that it would impress their wife or girlfriend. However, the tagline, “Keep her where she belongs…” doesn’t really have anything to do with that idea. All it really does is promote the idea that getting the shoe will allow you to keep control over your significant other.
Spanking Your Wife
Well this is certainly a… striking image. And origin of the image isn’t much better. Apparently, in the 1950s, four men interviewed revealed that they thought it was okay to beat their wives if they make mistakes. And in this image, the mistake in question was that the wife had bought stale coffee. So the ad is telling women to “store-test” coffee before buying it.
Does Everything But Cook…
This advertisement was for the Kenwood Chef food processor. There’s really not much to say about this one other than point out the tagline: “The Chef does everything but cook – that’s what wives are for!” Come on, really?
It’s A Man’s World
Already off to a great start. Being served breakfast in bed is one thing, but the tagline really gives this image a new connotation. Rather than it looking like a woman giving her husband a nice meal, it looks more like she’s just being subservient to him. Although, the mannerisms of the couple already gives this ad a negative vibe, even without the tagline.
Without context, just looking at the image, you’d probably get immediately confused or offended (or maybe both). The implication is that the man’s pants were so good that they “floored a tiger lady”. Although, that’s kind of hard to pick up from just the picture. If anything, it’s just graphic and really strange.
Beautiful, But Dumb
The best way to get someone to buy your product is to call them dumb. This is a deodorant ad that intended to use scare tactics to get women to buy their product. Whether it worked or not, you can’t say that this isn’t a scummy way to boost sales.
A Woman Can Open It?
Wow! Even a woman can open it? I would imagine so. According to the gender roles of the era, women would be the one opening bottles and jars all the time for cooking. And that’s ignoring the issues with the obvious sexism.
Say Goodbye To Depression
The idea of someone selling a cure-all medication to depression already sounds too good to be true. And things only get worse when you find out that supposed cure-all is wine. Wine can be good for relaxing, but when paired with actual depression, alcohol will normally only make you feel worse.
Free For Chubbies
Selling to specific audiences isn’t something that’s uncommon, even in the present day. It does help to boost sales. But sometimes those targeted ads can be… insensitive. Take this “Free for Chubbies” ad in the 1960s. If you’re trying to be inclusive, you’re certainly using the wrong word. The girl pictured in the image doesn’t even look that big.
Pyrex is a brand that’s been around forever. You can see how their advertisements changed as the decades went by. Especially if you were to compare a modern ad to this one. “Successful marriages start in the kitchen”? You can’t even argue that this is supposed to be mutual when it comes to cooking, because the wife is clearly in an apron and cooking while the husband just watches.
You’re Eating A Pony!
This one is just… emotionally scaring. Children love horses, and these people were trying to advertise selling horse meat to children. Maybe if it was a cheaper option and a family was strapped for cash, this might work. But most of the time, it’d be hard to imagine this product sold anything at all.
Is It Illegal To Kill A Woman?
Let me stop you right there. The answer is yes. It’s illegal to kill anyone. A woman is anyone. The context of this ad is that a woman turns down a salesman’s offer believing that the product he’s selling is too difficult to use. However, he convinces her to try it out and she finds it to be rather easy to use. While the issues with the context here aren’t as bad (as bad, there’s still some engrained sexism here), the main problem is the tagline. It’s a joke between couples, but even with that context, the statement just seems in poor taste.
DDT Is Good For Me
Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, better known as DDT, was a pesticide. It was tasteless, odorless, and seemed to even cause fruits and vegetables to grow larger. So it became rather popular. And then, of course, DDT decided to step out of their lane. They started to market it as a house cleaner. And then, the FDA revealed that DDT can cause cancer.
Start Shaving Early
This ad is strange and makes no sense. Babies don’t have enough hair to even need to shave. And then there’s the fact that handing a baby a sharp object is a recipe for disaster. The fact no one told the creator of this ad “no” is honestly baffling.
Wrapped In Cellophane
This image is really just horrifying. It’s pretty obvious what they were going for: stork delivering a baby, just in cellophane. And since people love babies or want to have children, the idea seems sound. But not only is the stork kind of creepy looking, the image of a baby being held in a cellophane bag just looks… unsettling.
Curves Of Youth
This ad was from all the back in 1890. It promised to reduce the size of your chin and give you an overall more attractive face. The ad was primarily geared towards older women. Not only was there no evidence backing up this ad’s claims, it doesn’t even look good. It looks like modern day headgear.
On the surface, this ad doesn’t look particular harmful. It’s just a painting of an attractive woman drinking a Coke while lounging in the pool. It’d be rather difficult to argue that it’s cringeworthy. The issue here is more so that it’s just glorified product placement. Although, to be fair, what kind of terrible slogan could Coke have used in the 1970s?
Women Don’t Leave The Kitchen!
Oh great, another ad saying women belong in the kitchen. Except this one has an exclamation point. You really can’t print anything like this nowadays. Not only would women get enraged by the obvious forced gender role, but men would get angry by the idea that they can’t cook or take care of themselves. Seriously though, the mother’s just supposed to stay in the kitchen and watch her husband play with her children?
Iver Johnson Revolvers
Children and guns simply do not go well together. They literally do PSAs about this in school to teach kids about gun safety and that they shouldn’t be handling them. You’d think this might be a PSA itself by having the ad say “Iver Johnson Revolvers are not toys”. Then it throws you a curveball by saying they’re easy to use, shoot straight, and kill. Iver Johnson can certainly promise one of those three things. That and the fact that they’re not toys.
Keep Down Your Weight
People that do spring cleaning know that you can really work up a sweat from doing it. And that’s what this ad was supposed to insinuate. However, with the limited context of the ad, this gives the impression that someone, or more specifically a woman, should maintain a slim figure while staying in the home to take care of household chores.
Everyone knows that candy must be consumed in moderation. Too much can throw someone’s diet completely out of wack. Of course, before sugar had been more extensively studied, candy producers thought they could capitalize off of the idea of children getting a sugar high. Because of that extra energy, candy was marketed to mothers specifically as a smart treat to give their kids.
Back when air travel was first being commercialized, flight attendants, or stewardesses, were a major part of marketing campaign. Most of the time, a stewardess wasn’t even allowed to kids to work on an airline. Why, you might ask? Well, that’s because the airline owners wanted to push the idea that a man could “get lucky” while he was taking a trip. This ad just seems to reinforce this idea, treating the stewardesses more as things than anything else. Also, the grammar on the ad is just really bizarre.
Men Are Funny That Way
Men were often targeted with more sexual advertisements, while women were more often threatened. The idea that if they didn’t keep a clean house or clean self were supposed to give the idea that their husband may cheat on, or even divorce them. Not only would that be excessive, it also seems to push the idea that it’s okay for a man to cheat if their wife doesn’t do everything they want from them. This one’s a breath freshener ad by the way.
Catch Your Man
There’s a lot to unpack here. Back in the day, it was expected for a woman to become a wife, and if they didn’t they were considered an outcast. And that’s what led to this donut ad. The most notable thing about this one is the ball and chain the woman’s hiding behind her back. The donuts are supposed to lure in a potential mate and the ball and chain’s supposed to keep him put. Marriage is really compared to a prison.
Another Woman For Every Man
The idea of men cheating on their wives because they had bad breath seemed to be very prevalent in the past decades. Rather than simply showing the man kissing another woman, this one’s at least a little bit more subtle. The woman pictured here is supposed to be like a spider, catching your man in her web. And all because she doesn’t have “morning mouth”.
Now, in our American ads, things are cringy more so because of social issues. There’s mostly sexism, but some child endangerment too. This one… this one’s just horrifying. In this French sausage ad, it features a pig butchering itself, with an honest to god smile on its face. There’s not much more to say about this, other than the existential nightmare it might cause.