Advertising has become an integral part of our socio-economic lives and it’s carefully designed to speak to the hearts and minds of consumers. It taps into our psyche, hopes, dreams, goals, and fears.
In this article, we will flip through the pages of history and look at some of the offensive or misogynistic print ads, from brands that tried to sell their products by promoting male chauvinism, sexism, and breeding the feeling of insecurity among women.
Vintage ads are a reflection of the past that shows the values of that time period. Early print advertisements were a lot more blatant, some of them so downright offensive that is hard to believe they actually went live. Imagine what the reaction would be if any of these advertisements were put up today?
However, regarding the sexist messages, Mad Men-style ad men knew what they were doing and they understood that sex sells, and so does controversy. As long as the advertisements did their job and moved products, companies would keep pushing the limits as far as they could. Even back then, people complained. But a few strongly-worded letters sent via postal mail to the company in question could easily be ignored.
Even modern-day ads objectify women, but there’s no way companies could get away with what they just did a few decades away. In some ads, the men grope their wives, tread on them and blow smoke in their faces.
Major brands like Kellogg’s featured sexist slogans, like “The Harder A Wife Works, The Cuter She Looks.” The advert for Volkswagen boasts of the firm’s hard-wearing cars, beginning simply: “Women are soft and gentle, but they hit things”. Other companies promoted pseudoscience that we now know to be utter rubbish. 7-Up told moms to add the soda to their babies’ milk. Camel cigarettes were marketed as “the doctor’s favorite brand”.
(Photo credit: Pickchur / National Archives / Library of Congress).