10 Vintage Advertisements That Will Make You Cringe


    Advertising has changed to such degrees in the last several decades that the past is barely recognizable. As a matter of fact, vintage ads that were printed between the ’20s and ’50s are so outrageous sometimes that you might feel like you are looking at a spoof of a real claim.

    But what is truly shocking is that technically, we still see the same kinds of tricks used in today’s marketing world. The only things that have changed are the language and the tone of the overall message. Check out these vintage ads that are sure to make you feel dirty and see what I mean for yourself.

    1. Wash the Fat Away

    Wash the Fat Away

    This is one of the most insane things I have ever seen. Could anyone honestly believe that a bar of soap could literally strip away fat and leave you thinner with each wash? How does that gel at all with even the most basic common sense?

    What if you used too much or for too long? Would you end up emaciated? Would you just disappear? If you used another soap, could you put weight back on? So many questions, so few answers.

    2. Tipalet Dating Tip: Secondhand Smoke Is Sexy

    Secondhand Smoke Is Sexy

    Let’s ignore the obvious double entendre in the slogan for a moment and just look at the bizarre ad itself. Have you ever had smoke blown into your face? Even if you smoke, it is annoying. It stings the eyes, smells bad, and is considered extremely impolite in all circles.

    So, in what fantasy land would doing this act as a method of seduction? In the world of Tipalet, which was telling men that if they demeaned their date by showing they weren’t even worth a basic consideration, they would melt for them.


    3. 7UP – The Baby’s Drink of Choice

    The Baby's Drink of Choice

    Breast milk and baby formula are fine, and fruit juice is a nice little treat. But why not give babies something they really want and throw some 7UP in that bottle? Everyone knows that empty sugar is great for a growing infant. As for that carbonation, don’t worry – it isn’t like small children have trouble digesting things or anything.

    This kind of thing was done all the time in the past, especially with sodas and fattening items like butter. But it isn’t much different now. Just think of those prepackaged, sugary snacks that are sold on grocery shelves today.

    4. Hook ’em When They’re Young


    Have you turned on a television lately? While publicly funded TV is light on commercials, regular child networks are chock full of ads for toys, games and even food. But do the companies really intend to market to children?

    Nope. Actually, it isn’t the kids they are concerned with – children have no money. It is the parents. There are two kinds of ads for this purpose: One is to get children to badger their parents into buying something, and the other is to appeal to the parents themselves by making them think their children need something.

    5. Show Her Who’s Boss

    where she belongs

    Can you imagine a commercial now that depicted a woman as a slave to her husband’s whims, just because it is a “man’s world”? You don’t have to, because there is a role-reversal tactic that is shown today, showing the man as a vapid and weak windbag who is inferior to his wife.

    We can see in this ad for Van Heusen apparel where the idea comes from. Women were put upon for so long that it is technically acceptable by society’s terms to have her treat men the same way, if it is lighthearted enough. But both ideals are sleazy, underhanded and depressingly effective.

    6. 4 Out of 5 Dentists Agree That Commercial Statistics Are Crap


    You might be wondering what “procurable women” means. It was a more polite way of saying prostitute, and so the basic message behind the poster isn’t too outrageous. Essentially, it is saying that a lot of hookers have dangerous diseases, which is true. Most women who work on the street (and men, for that matter) have venereal diseases that can be passed to their clients.

    But where did the 98 percent figure come from? I guarantee it never came from a study, because that number is insane. There are plenty of prostitutes, even today, with the threat of diseases like HIV, who are more or less safe. Research would also have to contradict such a strange number to begin with.

    You can come up with any statistic that you want for anything, and it will probably be made up. That includes statistics used today.

    7. Daddy Didn’t Leave Us Money – To The Orphanage With You!


    A couple of weeks ago I saw an ad nearly identical to this, at least in guilt factor. It was a picture of a beautiful, innocent little girl in black and white, about 4 years old, looking at a flower and seeming sad and alone. She asks, “Daddy, if you died, who would take care of me and mommy?” It was an ad for life insurance quotes.

    I am not making this up.

    Looking at the version from the ’20s, it is obvious where this idea came from. There is no fear more potent than that of a parent when they think of their children. The idea of giving them up due to lack of funds, especially after the tragedy of losing a spouse, is horrifying. I can hear some of you rushing to get a quote right now.

    8. Processed Sugar Is Nature’s Appetite Suppressant

    Sugar weight loss

    Want to lose weight? Just start undereating, like this ad suggests. But if you worry about your will power, there is a surefire way of persevering. Just grab a tablespoon and start shoveling pure sugar into your mouth. That will take off those pounds!

    There is so much wrong here that the mind boggles.

    9. McDonald’s Hamburgers for Health

    McDonald’s Hamburgers for Health

    Lettuce? Healthy. Tomato? Healthy. Bread? Healthy. Cheese? Healthy. Potatoes? Healthy. Beef? Healthy. So, therefore, a combo meal from McDonald’s is healthy, right? It hits all the major food groups, after all, so like the ad says, it is wholesome food for your whole family!

    This kind of mentality is probably a big part of why obesity is such a problem today. Slap some veggies on a burger dripping in grease next to a huge slab of french fries, and you are getting your five a day – or not.

    10. Cigarettes Cure the Sick

    Cigarettes Cure the Sick

    Cigarettes Cure the Sick

    Not only are cigarettes good for you but they will actually cure your lung conditions! You would think that inhaling the smoke of burning chemicals, tobacco, tar and poisons would be a bad thing for those who have asthma. But in the world of advertising, everything up is down, and left is right, which means cigarettes will help you breathe better, not worse.

    The long list of things these claim to heal (I especially like foul breath) is insane.

    I love it when my pits smell minty fresh. Even more than that, I love the feeling of the skin under my arms burning with the fire of a thousand suns as the alcohol in Listerine eats away at the delicate skin, so I have to walk around all day with my arms up like I am waiting for someone to toss an imaginary football.

    Therefore, I am not at all surprised that people would be attracted to the idea of using Listerine as a deodorant. I plan on doing that for the rest of my life, saving literally 10s of dollars a year in the process.

    So, What’s Your Point?

    Mostly, I am snide and sarcastic and wanted to share that with you all. You’re welcome.

    But more than that, I wanted to show that vintage ads were insane – and today’s are no better. They still use the same cheap tricks, strange suggestions and pushy tactics, and we still respond to them like monkeys jumping through flaming hoops – only not as awesome as that at all.

    My conclusion is this: People will fall for anything, myself included.


    1. Robert Moutal says

      I wonder what will the commercials look like when you do a post like this one in 20 years. What will make us cringe then? Maybe gas-powered car ads? Perhaps beef ads? Who knows, maybe even Facebook mentions?… What do you think?

    2. says

      Great stuff, Sonia. It’s easy and fun to go back in time and identify things that modern society won’t tolerate. Make me wonder what’s going on today that will have that same effect on people in the future?

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