Today, with cancel culture becoming widespread all over social media, public figures and advertisement companies are very careful with what they advertise to the public. TV, printed, radio, and online ads go through several stages that include analysis and scrutinization so that they are considered appropriate to their target audiences. Back in the day, though, ads would often come out without going through any of these strict stages, which would often result in terribly offensive and inappropriate advertising by today's standards. Check out some of the most controversial of them all!
While Coca Cola has become one of the most profitable and best-known corporations worldwide, the sugary drink was once pretty new to the market. Although most of us are aware that the soft drink is seriously unhealthy and can quickly spike blood sugar levels, back then, people didn’t have access to the same type of information. This vintage ad, for instance, basically recommends the drink to newborns and toddlers so they can have a better start in life.
After being made famous by Mad Men, Lucky Strikes continued to aggressively advertise the cigarette to a fresh market. But we are pretty sure that this ad would never easily fly nowadays since advertisements for cigarettes have become very strict with time. The company reached a complete bottom in this ad though, when they actually advertised their tobacco while using the image of Santa Claus. The ad had the aim of suggesting that the cigarette would be the perfect Christmas gift.
It’s safe to say that most people who would see an ad like this one today would be completely scandalized by the audacity of Sega’s marketing team. Although the brand has fallen behind after the introduction of Sony and Microsoft in the computer gaming world, the company didn’t fly very well with the public due to its often controversial ads. This provocative ad was inspired by dirty and sexual references, and would most certainly never be allowed today.
It’s safe to say that any advertisement with the word “cocaine” in it would most probably be banned in an instant if it was ever targeted to the public. But apparently, back then, Lloyd Manufacturing Co. found it completely reasonable to advertise these cocaine toothache drops as the perfect remedy for any toothache. But that’s not all. The ad also features children in it, which makes it even more unacceptable than it already is.
Chesterfields has had many controversial ads, and this one is just another one of them. Though the ad above was already terrible enough in the way it used a political figure as an endorsement, this ad uses a child in its advertisement. In the ad, the company suggests that a pack of cigarettes would make for the perfect gift for a father, thus using a woman and a child as the poster present givers.
We've seen tobacco companies using presidents to endorse them, and now, we are presented with a ubiquitous cigarette ad that features a pregnant woman. Exactly, this 1950s ad actually suggests that the cigarette they're promoting has precisely the taste expectant mothers crave. Back in the 50s, it wasn't uncommon for tobacco ads to feature pregnant women, with some even suggesting that smoking while pregnant could help with an "easy labor."
Over the years, vodka companies have released several memorable ads, either because of how colorful and creative they were or because of the controversy behind their marketing choices. This Smirnoff billboard from 1958, for instance, features a bedraggled woman sitting by herself at a breakfast table while holding a glass of vodka. The caption says, “Every morning’s a Smirnoff morning,” which makes us automatically associate the ad with some sort of alcoholism campaign.
The early 20th century was flooded with sexist ads, so this one is just another one for the collection. The 1920s Palmolive ad suggests that a woman’s appearance is much more important than her intelligence, at least from a man’s perspective. So the ad recommends that women use Palmolive to keep that appearance in check while using the catchphrase: “Most men ask ‘is she pretty,’ not ‘is she clever’?”
The beer industry has a long history of sexist and misogynistic advertisements that are based on gender stereotyping. If and when women were ever featured in beer ads, it was almost always depicted in a way that would reduce them to “fragile housewives” or an object of the male gaze. This Schlitz ad from 1952 is no exception, with an image of a strong husband who comforts his fragile wife.
Though the use of doctors' endorsements to promote cigarettes may seem horrifying today, during the '30s and '40s, it was extremely common. Back then, doctors hadn't yet found a correlation between smoking and cancer, and tobacco regulations were either not in place or were not that strict yet. Just like their competitors would do, Camels often attempted to convince customers that smoking was actually good for you.