Shameless Vintage Ads That Were Once Acceptable
Alcoa Aluminum advertisement, 1960s
Advertisements have always been about one thing and one thing only: selling products to consumers. Ads in the modern era tend to be created to appeal to the most broad base possible, but that hasn't always been the case. The following shameless vintage ads are full of images and text that were once acceptable but would now be canceled.
Look close at these rare ads from previous decades... you'll see products that you know and love being sold through means that are completely alien to commercials in the modern era. Some of them are sexist, some use false information, some are just plain weird, and many combine all three of those factors to create an ad that crosses the line and would be banned today.
All of the ads collected here went too far in one way or another. Even though some of the images and copy that they use are amusing these ads will never be approved in this day and age.
This Alcoa Aluminum advertisement from 1953 isn't about the bottle in question, but the cap on top of the bottle. Apparently before Alcoa put this type of lid into production they were under the impression that women had to have their husbands open things for them. That's far from the truth.
As if the thinking behind this ad wasn't bad enough, many people don't even know that it's an ad for Alcoa. A lot of viewers believe that it's a Del Monte ad - take a look at the label just under the lid. Regardless of who created the ad, it's hard to believe that something like this actually ran in the 20th century.
Lipton Tea, saving marriages one bag at a time
There's so much about this Lipton tea ad that not only couldn't run today but the entire concept is kind of a head scratcher. Was there someone at the agency behind this ad that couldn't get a decent cup of tea? Or did they really believe that a housewife couldn't handle dipping tea bags into hot water.
It's mind boggling to think that Lipton gave the thumbs up to this ad. Aside from being deeply sexist, the copy is absolutely bonkers at the bottom. It's strange to think that there was a time when pictograms and rude statements about wives were A-OK in the world of advertising.
This Grape-Nuts ad promises a slim figure to mothers and daughters
Can you sell a product by being body positive? Advertisers selling Grape-Nuts in the 1950s didn't seem to think so. This ad shows a mother and daughter in identical outfits with the mother showing her daughter how to cinch her belt as tight as possible to give the appearance of a tiny waist.
There are plenty of products that claim to carve weight off the human body, but their ads are no longer as craven as this one. It's off putting to see a mother walking her daughter through the steps of making herself appear as skinny as possible, as if being anything but is bad. Weirdly enough, ads for Grape-Nuts that were targeted at men made zero mention of weight and instead reminded them that the cereal would help enhance their brains.
Mr. Leggs print ad offers to sooth the savage heart
This ad for Mr. Leggs dress pants from the 1950s tells the audience everything it needs to know about the people who made it. It shows a man standing on a woman's head that's fitted to a tiger-skin rug. Today, this ad would have whoever made it canceled into the sun.
The photo in this ad is bad enough, but the copy really does merit a closer look. It reads:
Though she was a tiger lady, our hero didn’t have to fire a shot to floor her. After one look at his Mr. Leggs slacks, she was ready to have him walk all over her. That noble styling sure soothes the savage heart!
The Kenwood Chef does everything but cook
Ah just what every homemaker wants, another piece of equipment to learn how to use, clean, and take care of. This vintage ad definitely wouldn't run today but it's not as bad as some of the other ads that we've seen. At least everyone looks happy in the photo.
The ad posits that as long as you pick up a Kenwood Chef all in one kitchen utensil for your wife that she'll be happier than ever to use it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But everyone knows that you shouldn't get this kind of thing as a gift, right? Nothing says I love you like, "Use that thing I bought you to make dinner."
Dormeyer print ad, 1950s
This is a classic ad that you just won't see today. It plays off the concept of children ripping an ad for toys out of a magazine before circling everything they want and handing it to their parents as a Christmas list. Only instead of being directed at children it's directed at women, specifically housewives.
Do we all look at advertisements print or otherwise and think about how we'd like someone to buy those things for us? Absolutely, everyone does it regardless of who they are. But to compare housewives to children is taking things just a bit too far.
Chlorodent says that every day is Halloween without mouthwash 🎃
This classic ad for Chlorodent is so weird that it has to be seen to be believed. To get across the concept of "morning mouth," that old phrase that everyone uses ever day, this ad puts a woman in a very freaky jack-o-lantern mask. She seems to be beautiful behind the mask, but that darn morning mouth is keeping her real self from the viewer.
Everyone has bad breath when they wake up in the morning, it doesn't matter who you are. That's why it's so odd that Chlorodent is being advertised specifically to women rather than everyone on the planet. It's almost like the folks behind this ad don't think it matters what a man's breath smells like.
Naval recruiting poster, 1917
There's a lot to unpack in this World War I era U.S. Navy recruiting poster, let alone how it's not how young people would be brought into the military today. The art here is stupendous, but the message that only men can serve in the Navy and that any person who doesn't serve is less manly is just mind boggling. It's more of a dare than an advertisement.
This ad may have worked in 1917, but it ignores the fact that women have been a strong part of America's national identity from day one. Not only that, but it's hard to imagine this poster running today without the country flipping out over the ad's insistence that women don't have what it takes to be naval officers. Thank goodness we're past this kind of thing.
Pyrex wishes you a very happy marriage
Many of these vintage ads are so mind-bogglingly wrong-headed that you have to laugh. This Pyrex ad suggests that a woman's childhood dream would be two-fold: having a successful marriage and receiving Pyrex as a wedding gift so she can make meals for her new husband. It really does sound like wedded bliss.
People would flip out about this ad if it ran today regardless of the fact that it's so over the top in its suggestion that it's the perfect third for a marriage. Has anyone ever opened a wedding gift, realized that it's a pan and been over the moon? Pyrex seems to think so.
Parker makes a pen for every hand 🖊
Has anyone ever had trouble writing with a perfectly normal sized pen? When you were a child and you wrote a letter, drew a drawing, or just did some scribbling was the size of the pen all that big of an issue? The answer to these questions is obviously no, which is why this ad is such a frustrating thing to see.
The visuals are totally fine and look like they would run in a print ad from the 1980s, but it's the copy that's stunningly backwards:
Girls - and girl-size hands - delight in the new Compact Jotter. It's smaller, daintier, a joy to write with... And it sells at the same famous-value price: $1.98 at your Parker dealer's. That's little enough for a pen as ladylike as you are.
Underwood swears that they're the only brand that keeps manicures safe
What exactly is Underwood selling here, a typewriter or nail polish? This typewriter marketed specifically to secretaries banks on the fact that it's easier on a manicure than the rest of the typewriters on the market. That would be like a baseball bat being marketed to players to keep their hands soft.
The copy really is the star of this ad. Just take a look at how it sells itself to young women:
Now, look how the Underwood and Underwood alone helps you keep fingernails and hands lovely to look at, lovely to touch... Half moon tops mean fingernails never touch the keys. No worry about short unfashionable fingernails, chipped nail polish... Underwood's touch is kitten-soft. 28 easy to set touch variations! You choose touch to suit fingertips, always look fresh from the manicurist!
Van Heusen ties, for men only...
This is definitely an ad that wouldn't pass muster today, not only because the visual of a wife literally serving her husband is extra gross. The idea that something as simple as a tie would make women take notice of a powerful man is incredibly outdated. In context, this advertisement was normal but it's a real head slapper today.
The art in this ad is bad enough, but the copy takes things to the next level:
For men only!... brand new man-talking, power-packed patterns that tell her it's a man's world... and make her so happy it is. And man!... how that Van Heusen sewmanship makes the fine fabrics hold their shape.
Tipalet cigars brings some very strange advice to the table
Advertisements for cigars, cigarettes, and cigarellos are definitely outdated - they're still around but not as prevalent as they were even in the 1990s. In the middle of the 20th century ads like this were all over the place to make smoking look sexy and manly. Even without the subtext here it's clear that this wouldn't run in a magazine, let alone a bus stop.
But that copy, "Blow in her face and she'll follow you anywhere." It's impossible to imagine something like that being printed in a major magazine today let alone in the 1960s. This is definitely a product of its time.
Gold Dust Washing Powder, when elbow grease won't cut it
This ad from the tail end of the 19th century offers a look at the kind of house work that many wives had to do at the time. It's not the most offensive ad that you'll see on here today by a long shot, but it refuses to admit that the "eight hour men" that it speaks of could do some of the washing as well. That's likely a thought that never crossed the advertiser's mind.
The one thing about this ad that's really great is that it takes note of how hard it is to clean a house. It's rare in an era of sexist advertisements that anyone would note that women have it harder than men. Still, the woman in this ad shouldn't look so pleased to be scrubbing the floors.
This Volkswagen ad tries to make male drivers feel safe
This ad promoting the relatively inexpensive Volkswagen Beetle chooses to focus on the tired old myth that women are bad drivers rather than the features that make it a great car. Today, automobile ads are more interested in the great features, not who can and can't drive the cars. That's just lunacy.
The visual of a beat up Volkswagen is kind of interesting, but it's the copy that's incredibly out dated:
Women are soft and gentle, but they hit things. If your wife hits something in a Volkswagen, it doesn't hurt very much... Most other VW parts are interchangeable too. Inside and Out. Which means that your wife isn't limited to fender smashing. She can jab the hood. Graze the door. Or bump off the bumper.
Mornidine print ad, 1950s
Some of the vintage ads that can't be run today that you're checking out are a no-go because of their offensive imagery. Some of them would never run because the copy is misogynistic, but this ad is absolutely mind boggling. If you can't tell, it's for a product that tamps down on morning sickness.
What's wrong with that kind of medicine? Nothing, really, but the ad suggests that a soon to be mother would want to get rid of her morning sickness so she can get back to making breakfast for her husband. That's just plain wrong but it's weirdly in line with the times.
This Hardee's ad is proof that they know their customer base 🍔
Oh boy, this ad for Hardee's is really trapped in a specific era. Today, there's absolutely no way that an ad would make it to press saying that "a woman's place in the home, cooking a man a delicious meal." If this went out today Hardee's wouldn't just canceled, they would be turned into Shake Shacks in the blink of an eye.
That being said, it's clear that this ad is trying to be cheeky about their statement. Take note that they refer to Hardee's as a place where you can get something "sloppy and hastily prepared" for someone living the "bachelor's life." At least they have a sense of humor.
Total ad promoting a clean house and an all cereal diet, 1970s
This ad for Total cereal posits that women love two things: watching their weight and cleaning the house. Everyone reading this knows why this wouldn't fly today, but it honestly feels like it wouldn't have even been cool in the '60s. No one wants to be shamed for their weight and reminded that they have chores to do.
The copy for this "Total" ad makes sure to really push the point home:
Don't lose vitality while watching your weight. Live right, eat right... A one-ounce bowlful gives you 100% of the minimum daily adult vitamin and iron requirements - plus a delicious crunchy taste.
Listerine promises to be the key to a healthy relationship
Ads for toothpaste and mouthwash have come a long way since this warning posited by Listerine. Here, they suggest that if a gal has bad breath for even a second in front of her beau she can lose it all... especially if there's a girl with better breath around the corner. The logical leap that this ad makes is kind of impressive.
The opening copy on this ad really goes out of its way to make young women feel bad, it's genuinely astonishing:
It has happened to thousands of girls... it can happen to you. One little moment's carelessness and he will be through with you that quick! You will probably as yourself over and over again, 'Why? Why? Why?'
Silva Thins with an ad you definitely wouldn't see today
Aside from the fact that parents and anti-smoking groups have made sure that tobacco ads are almost non-existent in the modern era, this ad for Silva Thins would never be made today. It's obvious why not, but we'll clarify just in case you're not sure. The ad compares women to cigarettes and says that the best of them are thin and rich - oof.
It's one thing to be compared to a product, that's bad enough. But to be body shamed for not looking like a cigarette or not having any money is legitimately upsetting. Hopefully no one made the folks behind this ad feel bad about their bodies or financial situations.
Santa takes a puff off a Lucky Strike
Santa Claus is used in a variety of ads in the modern era. Coca-Cola famously uses him during Christmas to great effect. In the 1990s you couldn't turn on a TV from November to January without seeing Santa crack open a soda, but even then audiences wouldn't see him take a puff from a cigarette.
It's honestly mind boggling that advertisers would be so bold as to take one of the most well known holiday figures and have him shill cigarettes. The Lucky Strikes that he's puffing would look more at home with Jack Kerouac than they do in the hands of Santa. There's something that's just so wrong about this ad.
More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette... sure they do
This ad for Camels really does scrape the bottom of the barrell when it comes to selling its product. There's something delightfully absurd about the ways that this ad tries to make smoking sound healthy. Not only do they say that "more doctors" smoke Camel cigarettes than any other brand, but the the concept of the "T-Zone" is just amazing.
As far as this ad is concerned, the "T-Zone" is basically just your mouth. There's nothing technical involved here, it's essentially saying that if you like the taste of the cigarette and like the way it feels when you smoke then Camel is the cigarette for you. This laughable fake science is exactly why the ad wouldn't run today.
Kellogg's Pep promoting vitamins with a side of house work
First introduced in 1923, Kellogg's Pep cereal was the first to be fortified with B and D vitamins. It wasn't the 1930s that this cereal really got an advertising push from the company, first on The Adventures of Superman radio series and then through these ads that show just how much they can pump up a house wife for a day of cleaning. Oh how the women of the day must have felt truly seen.
There's nothing wrong with an ad that explains that Pep cereal has vitamins and minerals, that's pretty standard even today. The jaw-dropping aspect of this ad is the fact that the guy in the ad is saying that the harder his wife works the cuter she looks. What a message to send to the women of the world.
Coca-Cola, the original brain tonic 🧠🥛
There's nothing wrong with having a cold soda on a hot day (or any kind of day you want). Advertising Coca-Cola as a "brain tonic" is just so ridiculous. When it comes to false advertising with vintage ads this Coca-Cola spot really isn't as beyond the pale as some of the things we've shown you, but it's still odd.
It's possible that at the time Coca-Cola was just trying to push sugar water on readers as a way to get rid of headaches, that can work in some situations. But it's still odd that they would try to market soda as a cure-all for mental and physical exhaustion. That "science" definitely wouldn't make it to the ad today.
Even the losers get lucky some time
This ad for Eastern Airlines has an interesting idea at its heart but it still manages to be sexist. Over a group of beautiful women the copy explains that for every one airline attendant that they hire they pass on another 19 who just so happen to be stone cold foxes. It's a solid sentiment but it could have been laid out in far less misogynistic tone.
The thrust of this ad is that the attendants of this long gone airline aren't just gorgeous, they're attentive and smart. At the end of the day no matter what the folks behind the ad were trying to say they still came off as condescending. Sadly it's not the worst of the ads on here.
This Lysol ad claims that they're the only product that can save a marriage
Some of the vintage ads that wouldn't run today that we've collected here are funny, others are shocking, but this one is downright out of order. Lysol was sold as a feminine hygiene product in the 1930s, but at the beginning of the 20th century there was no way an advertiser could say that. It just wouldn't be okay to print.
The thing that was apparently okay to print was that anyone who didn't use Lysol for its then-intended purpose would destroy their marriage. This ad is a complicated one. Not only does it shame this poor imaginary woman, but it tells women everywhere that their marriages teeter on the slim edge of disaster at all times.
Sears offers some hope to mothers everywhere
Believe it or not but this insensitive ad is fairly recently. Only dating back to the 1970s, this ad isn't just a bad look it's confusing as well. It states that the young Tracy Harper doesn't care about fashionable clothing, but when has a young person not cared about whether or not they fit in with their peers?
Sears targeted this ad towards parents who want their kids to look presentable, which makes sense in context. However, it acts as if young people don't want to look good and it ignores how much of a drag it is to be referred to as "chubby." The folks who wrote this ad just weren't thinking.
Yes, "Chubettes" was a thing in the 1950s 🤦♀️
Are we really comparing larger women to bells? Well, because this is an ad from the middle of the 20th century the answer isn't just yes, it's an unequivocal of course. There's so much to unpack in this ad that we just don't have the space on the infinite continuum of the internet.
Aside from the bell of it all, this ad presupposes that a "chubby lass" wouldn't be popular without this gingham skirt. Advertising has always and continues to be manipulative but this is beyond the pale. The wildest thing about the concept of this ad is that we've only now begun to see body positive ads in print and television.
Grove's Tasteless Chill Tonic with the strangest ad you'll see all day
If we have questions about this ad then you must have questions about what exactly is going on here. Obviously, the number one question that everyone has when taking a look at this super creepy ad is "what?" The boy-pig illustration is certainly eye catching but it's also horrifying, could it have really sold tonic?
Grove's Tasteless Chill Tonic claimed to fight malaria as well as the chills and fever that came along with it. Containing a simple syrup and lemon extract, it's not clear just how "tasteless" this medicine was or how it "fattened" up its users. The one that is clear is that the folks behind this company were absolutely on one when they gave approval to this ad.
Big cola asks, "How soon is now?"
This ad from the Soda Pop Board of America is absolutely wild. Not only does it promote sugary carbonated beverages as a way to start an active lifestyle, but it states that the earlier you start feeding your kids soda the more well adjusted they'll be. We can't think of anything that's farther from the truth.
The copy on this ad is absolutely stunning in its pro-cola science:
How soon is too soon? Not soon enough. Laboratory tests over the last few years have proven that babies who start drinking soda during that early formative period have a much higher chance of gaining acceptance and "fitting in" during those awkward pre-teen and teen years. So, do yourself a favor. Do your child a favor. Start them on a strict regimen of sodas and other sugary carbonated beverages right now, for a lifetime of guaranteed happiness.
Yo Ho-Ho and a bottle of cringe
Before we get into this absolutely wild ad it's important to read its opening copy:
Move in pretty close. And make sure to point invitingly to your bottle of Captain Morgan Rum. Ignore her remarks about hairy old men in gumboots and licentious navvies. Pour some Captain Morgan over the ice. Keep up the patter about Captain Morgan's homeland. You know - the Caribbean, palm trees, sunswept beaches and all that jazz.
The best thing about this ad is that there's no way that something like this would have worked in the '60s or '70s. It's almost as if the people behind this ad for Captain Morgan wanted to see how many guys could get slapped for sidling up to a woman at a bar and saying, "Yo-ho-ho." Have you tried this? Please let us know if your face is still stinging.
Old Gold Cigarettes are king for a day 👑
Do you have questions about this ad? Because we definitely do. The number one question that we have while looking at this man crowning a giant anthropomorphized pack of cigarettes king (or maybe it's queen?) is "Huh?"
A few notes for this very old and strange cigarette ad: Why would this imaginary man be crowning a pack of "King Size" smokes queen? Why would the "king" cigarettes have a nice set of gams and a cool pair of white Beatle boots? Some of the advertisements that we're looking at here are genuinely offensive but this one is just maddening.
Panasonic ups the game with strange vintage ads
The imagery in this ad for the Flip 'N Style is absolutely stunning. The colors, the layout, even the machinery just looks so cool but it still manages to be a little offensive. It all comes down to the concept at the heart of the ad that tells women that they need a hair dryer simply because it's a thing that women should have.
We can't quite put our finger on it but there's just something about this copy that feels condescending:
Of course, it dries your hair. If you happen to think that hair is fashionable. But it's also a nice replacement for your teddy bear. It comes in three terrific colors to go with any bedspread. And it doesn't just sit around like your old teddy. Because the Flip 'N Style flips for you. Open. And closed. So when you're through drying (your fingernails, if your hair hasn't grown in) slip it into your attractive purse. So if you run into a cloudburst or fall into a swimming pool, you're prepared.
Benson & Hedges shows their literary side
There's something particularly odd about this extra manly add for Benson & Hedges cigars. Opening with a Rupyard Kipling quote sets a vibe, and while it's most likely that whoever came up with this ad wasn't trying to offend the ladies in the audience they still manage to compare women to a cigar. It stands to reason that no one wants to be compared to a cigar.
At the end of the day this ad is trying to sell the masculine lifestyle of scotch and cigars. It's not trying to be offensive but it walks such a thin line that there's no way that it would run today simply for that opening line. And really, when was the last time you saw an ad for cigars?
Brillo shows solidarity with the gals in the kitchen
The fascinating thing about this ad for Brillo Soap Pads isn't that it's trying to be overtly sexist like many of the ads that we've included here. The text that reads, "Woman... that took Brillo" is stating that women work smart and men work hard, is meant to be a compliment. However, the tagline at the bottom puts the offensive nature of the ad in context: "You'll find the Woman's Touch in every Purex Product."
Why do Brillo pads have to have a woman's touch? Wouldn't it make as much sense to say that they've got a hard worker's touch or the touch of a good housekeeper? It's clear that the advertisers were trying to be funny, it's just that the ad wouldn't survive cultural critics today.
Telex shows off their new computer
Out of all the ads that we've collected here, this vintage ad for a seriously antique Telex computer is by no means the worst of the worst. Sure, it's a little silly but it also perfectly fits in with the era. Look at those colors, the hair, the Telex... that's the 1970s in a nutshell.
The real reason that this vintage ad wouldn't run today is because it makes it seem like the woman operating the Telex doesn't know what she's doing. The "joke" at the heart of this ad is that she's just a secretary, thus she doesn't understand the machinery. But why would anyone hire a typist who doesn't know about the equipment they're using?
Big Sugar thinks that you should skip the vitamins and nutrients and tuck into a big bowl of sugar
This ad for sugar is genuinely amazing. If this ad full of made up science and false facts ran today there wouldn't just be lawsuits, people would be pouring out bags of sugar into the garbage. It's amazing what you could get away with in the middle of the 20th century.
Check out the copy in this ad and think about whether or not it would be allowed to run today:
We know it sounds odd - but it can work. Spoil your appetite by earing something with sugar. Sugar works faster than any other food to turn your appetite down, you energy up. Then when mealtime comes you're less apt to overeat. Willpower never tasted so good.
So that's how Santa keeps his boots so shiny and clean
Out of all the ads that we've put together here this spot for Microsheen has a strangely modern feel to it. Albeit the modern feel of an ad that's trying to look vintage, but that's what happens to be cool about it. Still, it's unlikely that an ad like this would run without at least getting a little backlash.
The whole point of this ad is that Santa's boots are show shiny that this young woman finds him attractive. Sexualizing Santa Claus is always tricky, some people don't mind while others see Santa as a very serious seasonal mascot. Maybe it's best if we just leave the big guy from the North Pole out of our ads from now on.
Make the scene in SceneJeans
Can you imagine jeans being advertised to anyone, men or women, with this kind of "Go get 'em" ad copy today? Nothing about the ad is really all that offensive, it's just that they look like something that squares were wearing even when they were first introduced. Still, doesn't it look like they're having fun?
These stretchy pants made for "rugged men" who enjoy "saucy solids" and "lusty patterns" are simply outdated, nothing more, nothing less. That being said, the entire style of of the ads have gone the way of the buffalo which is why it would never run. Never mind the fact that there's no way anyne would be excited to hang out with someone wearing these weird stretchy pants.
This washer and dryer ad takes things a little too far
This ad that ran in the Oneonta Star on December 5, 1972, is absolutely wild. So much about the ad is pretty straight forward - it includes prices and information about the washer and dryers on sale. But then there's the truly unhinged copy at the top of the ad that promises a happy, pretty and pregnant wife all for the price of a Hotpoint washer and dryer.
The wildest thing about this ad is that it ran only 50 years ago, in the scheme of things that's not very long ago. It's hard to imagine ad-men sitting around a table and coming up with the gross copy at the top of this ad but it's clear that's what happened. If this was pitched today whoever wrote it would be kicked down to the mail room.
Lestoil Cleaner advertisement takes women to the moon 🌜
It's hard to look at an ad like this and not admire the work that's been put into it. The retro-futuristic space age visuals are so cool to look at that it makes us wish that print ads still had this look to them. However, there is the 10,000 pound Lestoil elephant in the room.
The real problem with this ad is the copy: Women of the future will make the Moon a cleaner place to live. Why does it have to be women who clean on the moon? If we're getting all sci-fi with our ad copy let's have a couple of robots or moon monsters doing the cooking and cleaning?
Rest Assured Furniture advertisement (1970s)
This is another great ad that looks absolutely amazing that would sadly never make it past quality control today. The colors pop, the copy font is very cool, and the overall photo is genuinely astonishing, but comparing a woman to a couch is incredibly cringeworty. That didn't stop the folks behind the ad from going forward with it.
At the end of the day this ad isn't as ghoulish as some of the other ads that we've put together in this collection, but it's still not cool by today's standards. It's no secret that sex sells regardless of the era. However, in some cases using sex as a way to sell a couch needs to be rethought.
Sansabelt Action Pants... wait what?
Where do we start with this ad for Action Pants(!) by Sansabelt? Obviously our eyes are all drawn to the "Action Zone," whatever that means, but the real curiosity is the "extra large snack sack." Is that supposed to be a euphemism or do these pants actually come with a special pocket for carrying snacks?
These ancient looking slacks are still selling today, but they're no longer being sold to consumers as something that's hot and sexy. Overall this is a confusing ad that does its best to turn the camera's gaze on a man but it just makes the whole thing feel silly. On top of it all the dog checking out this guy's "action zone" is genuinely so strange.
Sega makes a play for the lonely men in the audience
Obviously, the major reason that this ad couldn't run today is the double entendre that's in big bold type, but the copy below is even more... saucy. It reads:
You sit there, eyes glued to the writhing, arcade quality graphics, pulling and squeezing your knob. Now you're breathing heavily over the digital stereo sound. Now you're shooting all over the place, but it's no use... 'GAME OVER.'
Sex Sells in a Carsuals Pants Ad (1970s)
What do Carsuals have to do with cars? From what we can tell they have absolutely nothing to do with automobiles of any type aside from their description in the copy. Or maybe you just need to have a nice car to have the confidence to actually pull these pants off.
As far as vintage ads go this one is pretty low on the offens-o-meter but it is pretty ridiculous. The only real reason that an ad like this would never run is because the pants are just so bad. Still, we'd love to get our hands on a pair of these horoscope Carsuals some day.
Threatened by the invention of artificial sweeteners
Spoiler Alert: This is our favorite vintage ad that could never be run today. Why? Simply because it's so outlandishly non-factual that it's hard to take anything it says seriously. Isn't that just the best?
Everything about this ad feels totally backwards but completely in place with the 1960s. With references to The Beatles and the need to beat the fatigue that comes with a teen girl, who wouldn't need a little sugar? According to this ad there's no way that a young person could get energy from fruits and vegetables. No, they need sugar and a lot of it.
Topper Toys for Suzy Homemakers... after all isn't that what every girl wanted to be
This ad for the complete line of Suzy Homemaker products is both completely genius and incredibly gross, that's a tough line to tow but the copywriters manage to walk it. The smart thing about this ad is that it essentially says that anyone who plays with this set is uncool, but being "uncool" is the only way to have the whole line. Sadly, it's also kind of creepy.
The subtext of this ad is that by buying the full line of Suzy Homemaker items that they can train their daughters to be subservient homemakers. By putting homemakers at odds with cool people who don't wear shoes or bathe it's using the fear of the other to inspire parents to turn their children into the squarest of the square. It's very strange.
Virginia Slims is down with women's lib
This ad for Virginia Slims was incredibly in your face and feminist for the 1970s, but it would definitely turn into a hot button issue if it ran today. The copy that runs down the side of the ad is perfectly coupled with the woman performing housework. Stating that Virginia Slims would be the thing to help her break free from her life of work is genuinely disappointing.
The tagline of "You've come a long way baby" is familiar to anyone who grew up in the '70s and '80s, but it's especially lascivious in this ad. By saying that smoking cigarettes will turn someone into a "modern" woman they're essentially stating that you're either a smoker or forced to do housework forever. What a weird world it was in the '70s.
Volkswagen wants women to feel safe on the road
What did the folks who made advertisements for Volkswagen have against women? Whether they liked women or not it's clear that they didn't think women had the capability to drive, which is just such a rotten and unfounded thought to have. It's even worse when it's put into an advertisement.
To better put this ad in context, it uses a photo of a woman who looks like Goldie Hawn during her time on Laugh In! Hawn played a ditzy gal who laughed at the wrong time while parading around in a bikini. It was an act, but it made her the ideal comedy bimbo - a look that became a trope throughout the '60s and '70s.
White Horse Liquor wants to be the face of the new era of dating
At the time that this ad was bring run the western world was just getting into the swing of things with the dating scene. We were decades removed from the stuffy 1950s and now people were living with friends, going on dates, and shocker of shocker they were mingling with members of the opposite sex. The thing that this ad posits is that if a guy shows up with a bottle of White Horse Liquor he'll be the toast of the town... or apartment.
But what is this ad really saying? It looks like it's telling customers that the only way to make a good impression on a room of babes is with the promise of everyone getting wasted. That's not just incorrect, it's kind of creepy.
Winnebago Moterhomes, the automobile for the hip and single
Winnebagos, those towering titans of the road trip world, have always been cool. Anyone with enough cash can pick up one from the dealer and head out on the open road to do whatever they want. This ad from 1972 really puts the emphasis on doing whatever you want... maybe a little too much emphasis.
In all likelihood an ad very similar to this could run today. After all there's nothing wrong with doing whatever you want in personal property, it's just that the way this ad goes about saying what it's saying is kind of skeevy. Does the ad hold up? Not really, but it's still fun.
Airlines need women, 1950s ✈
This is an absolutely fascinating look into the early days of hiring women as airline attendants. While it's not as bad as some of the other vintage ads that we've collected it does have some curious details that wouldn't fly today. Take a look at the possibilities offered to prospective employees, does anything look off to you?
There's nothing wrong with offering adventure and travel, those two things are a given with someone who works on an airline, but romance? Not everyone wants to meet someone at work, especially when you're essentially working in the hospitality industry and unable to escape the people you're serving. If this were to run today there would be serious edits.
Cricketeer suits keep men single
It feels like many of the ads collected here that were scraped out of the 1970s were rough drafts for struggling stand up comedians. This ad for the Cricketeer clothing company is all about offending the thin-skinned while having a laugh at the idea of guys who wanted to play the field and the excuses they make to continue doing what they do. It's funny, but there's no way it would run today.
Which of the excuses provided jump out to you as especially saucy? Have you tried these on anyone? If so you may need to find a time machine and jump back to the 1970s so you can be a spokesperson for Cricketeer.
Drummond Sweaters says no to female mountain climbers ⛰
When this ad ran in a 1959 issue of Esquire it must have caused a few ripples, even some hurt feelings. Out of all the vintage ads that wouldn't run today this is one of the few that's downright nasty. Is offing someone a good way to sell sweaters or is it just a way to get people to talk about your super mean ad?
As bad as the picture is in this ad, the copy is even worse:
Men are better than women! Indoors, women are useful-even pleasant. On a mountain they are something of a drag. So don't go hauling them up a cliff just to show off your Drummond climbing sweaters. No need to.
A burned dinner? It's no problem if you've got some Schlitz 🍻
This ad, targeted to newly married men everywhere, is right out of the I Love Lucy playbook. It shows a man who's so in love with his wife (and Schlitz beer) that he doesn't mind if dinner is ruined because at least he's got a couple of cold brews on the table. The ad isn't offensive but it is comically outdated.
Unlike some of the more nasty ads collected here this Schlitz piece looks really great. The message may be off-putting and ridiculous, but it looks like something out of the Saturday Evening Post and that's kind of cool. It's nice to appreciate something now that we don't have to deal with it anymore.