Before the turn of the century, ads of this sort were even more rampant than they are today, and it was socially acceptable to post insensitive and demeaning advertisements about anything that involved women and how they are somehow inferior to men. It can be seen in ads concerning laundry detergents, food helpers, etc. The worst part? Barely anyone said anything about it, not even women!
Today we’re more educated about the harmful social connotations of ads like this: A cigar is a cigar, one expensive stick of cancer-causing chemicals but let’s forget about that, right? Women are obviously the bane of everyone’s existence. Then again, Kipling had been oppressed and demeaned by his own wife, so perhaps that’s where his thought process stemmed from. Or perhaps it was his wife’s way of showing him he’s wrong.
So Fresh, So Kool
This penguin spraying mouthwash straight into his open beak looks absolutely insane. This ad for Kool cigarettes from the 1930s is arguing that smoking a cigarette is good for you if you feel under the weather. Why? Because their cigarettes have fresh, clean menthol in them! Forget Vicks VapoRub. It’s all about inhaling some toxic tobacco smoke into your lungs to achieve that sparkling menthol feel.
Although some people still smoke, we’re all more aware of the negative health effects that smoking can have on the body. Back then, cigarettes were presented as a health benefit. Perhaps the most insane thing about this ad is that Kool cigarettes are still marketed as a “true menthol experience” today. They leaned into the one good thing about smoking and ran with it, health concerns be darned!
Carsual’s Horoscope Pants
We’re not exactly sure what’s happening in this advertisement, but we know it’s specifically made to sell these horrendous horoscope slacks. According to the ad, these are a pair of “action” pants. Whatever your agenda is, I’m sure it’ll be a lot more fun with a colorful pair of slacks!
The suggestive posing of the woman behind implies that these fancy slacks also serve as chick magnets. Seriously? What is it with advertisements for slacks and the absolute need to insinuate that these pants will get the ladies’ heads turning? Nonetheless, these screen-printed cotton and polyester blend guarantees that these pair of pants are styled for action!
Come on, Baby, Light My Fire
Who knew lighter fluid could be so sexy? We certainly had no idea until we saw this 1948 advertisement for Ronson lighter fluid. Phew. It’s funny to see how obvious vintage ads were regarding who their target audience was. Ronson lighters aren’t for women. If that illustration is any indication, they’re only for suave, sexy men. Duh.
This flammable company was really out here, making all the average Joe’s think that carrying a Ronson lighter would make them irresistible to women far and wide. Heck, they might even get lucky in another way that’s only slightly implied in this ad. Although we do still see ads targeted at straight men in a similar way these days, it’s a lot more subtle than it was back in the 40s.
Women? Outside the Home? Impossible!
This Trans World Airlines ad was probably considered slightly feminist when it was created in 1954. Today, of course, it’s completely laughable. However, back in the 50s, it marked a change in how companies advertised to women in the US. The ad asked women, “Who says, ‘It’s a man’s world?’” as a way to appeal to “modern” women who had more social independence than ever before.
TWA lets women dream big and even consider traveling on their own. Without a man. Gasp! Can you even believe it?! This whole marketing gimmick is obviously ridiculous to anyone living in 21st-century America. Some women would even argue that traveling without a man is a million times better.