There’s always been a lot of stereotyping in advertising, but if you go back a few more decades there are some truly eye-popping ads that are downright terrible from wild claims to sexism, racism and everything in between. Others advertise downright dangerous things.
From using Lysol for feminine hygiene to putting babies in cigarette ads, these 60 old-school ads might just make you feel grateful we no longer live in that world.
1. Sexy cigars
Apparently, as a woman, it’s best to choose a cigar-smoking man because they live longer. There’s no truth to that, but tobacco ads didn’t really deal in reality.
We’re still trying to decide what’s sexy about being treated like a cigar.
2. It’s so easy!
Can you imagine all the trauma women went through before they made an easy-to-open ketchup bottle?
We clutch our pearls just thinking about it.
3. Good luck, buddy
But he’s wearing it to bed, so maybe that’s the trick.
4. Oh, Edna
Even worse, she apparently has bad breath, which appears to be a major impediment to marriage before the “tragic” age of 30.
Believe it or not, “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” was first used by Listerine beginning in 1925 in these types of ads.
5. Sugar for weight loss
We think the key is to skip an entire meal and have a Life Saver instead, which, to be fair, would help you lose weight, just not in any healthy way.
6. Includes cheese!
Sometimes pizza at home really does beat going out though.
But you could also just tell your “boy” that since it’s so easy to make, he can pop one in the oven for you as well.
Since we’re very surely supposed to be looking at Sabrina’s chest, might we suggest a less pointy bra next time?
8. Beer solves everything
Give him a couple of Schlitzs and offer to let him buy you dinner at a nice restaurant.
9. We have no words
In this ad for Dacron Leggs – which is a brand of polyester wool pants – a man stands on an animal print rug and rests his foot on a woman’s head.
We have no clue what that’s supposed to prove or how it’s supposed to be attractive to people – then again, we’d rather not understand.
10. Poor baby
No, not their own – YOURS!
They’re just so annoyed that you’re suffering. Doesn’t your heart just ache for them?
11. Say what?
What could they possibly be selling?
12. That’s a hell of a hair day
We’re also guessing Charles Antell’s Formula 9 shampoo isn’t going to do you much good either if the people who made it also concocted this horrific ad.
13. Domestic justice
Frankly, it sounds like men are getting the raw end of this deal.
14. Man up
We’re glad “Gap-osis” isn’t the pandemic we were warned it might be.
15. Something to do on Sunday
Why do they assume women don’t like football?
16. Watch your mouth
We wonder how many women worried about this unnecessarily.
And we want to know if some of these were geared towards men as well.
17. It’s just not funny
Oddly enough, this is an ad for a bowling alley that assumes the wife is going to lose.
18. Baby knows best
Marlboro was just one of many tobacco companies hoping to make people think that smoking was completely normal and healthy – so long as you smoked their brand.
19. Merry Christmas, honey
We really hope she got something nice and this wasn’t all that was under the tree for her.
20. Not funny “ha ha”
They’d reject or even divorce a women for it, apparently.
Here’s yet another ad designed to make women worry about one more thing.
21. Coke: it makes you smarter
Apparently, we’ve been drinking it wrong all this time because all it gives us is indigestion.
22. Selling smell
Apparently, you can go ahead and stop exercising. Your figure isn’t what’s important – the way you smell is.
This time it’s about armpits.
23. The stewardess set
And as far as we’re concerned the next best thing is those Delta cookies.
Airline personnel is great, but we’re not into travel just for the eye candy.
24. You are getting sleepy
Maybe then she really will appreciate that Hoover you bought her for Christmas.
25. Kid Spanx
And they came with a book about how to raise a chubby girl.
Can you imagine wearing a glorfied corset at 6 years old?!
26. We’ve had better
We’re more amused by the 8-year-old scotch sounding like a luxury item.
We’d be giving this guy decaf for life just to mess with him if we met him today. You know, after he gets out of jail for domestic abuse.
28. Girl pens
There’s a lot of subliminal messaging going on in that photo, but at the end of the day, we’re fine with a “manly” pen.
29. Male body image
Apparenently, skinny guys just can’t get any respect on the beach.
But we’re sure that 32-page illustrated book did wonders.
30. Wait, where’s the action?
And are we sure it’s not the same thing as the snack pack? Because that dog seems to think there’s a snack in the zone.
31. Don’t put Lysol there
In fact, if you read this ad closely, it would have you believe that no matter what your virtues are, they simply aren’t enough unless you smell like Lysol.
32. Indelicate women
We wonder how it guards a woman’s freshness AND wholesomeness.
Talk about a 2-for-1!
33. Positively non-poisonous
These companies manufactured a problem in order to sell a solution.
The only thing retro about this is the landline phone.
35. Blatant racism
The stereotype is one that shouldn’t sit well with any of us.
36. The scourge of middle-aged skin
Sadly, we haven’t moved very far beyond these kinds of worries.
And our “solutions” are a lot more expensive than Palmolive now.
37. Soap and civilization
In a time when colonialism was seen as a good thing, dark-skinned people had to be cast as the “other” and “lesser-than” in every way.
But this blatantly calls them dirty.
38. Smoke yourself thin
Nevertheless, tobacco ads would basically sell any idea they could to get people to smoke.
39. Pear’s Soap, Part II
And they very clearly meant Africa.
40. Every purpose?
That’s some pretty scary rhetoric.
But hey, at least it comes with an educational booklet for parents.