Advertisements from the Past

It seems advertising has been around as long as people. I can imagine ads scrawled into the walls of Pompeii for the "Best Sandals" or "Fish Sauce." Commercials are all over television, and with its decline, they are all over YouTube and even in movie theaters, but what did they look like in your grandparents day? Let's take a look at a few.

Got a headache? How about the latest cure, Opium (with 46 percent alcohol). That will knock it out for good, and if you take too much, it will knock you out permanently.

"Opium was widely available in the 19th century, sold by barbers, tobacconists and stationers. Writers including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Charles Dickens all used the drug, for pleasure or as medicine."

There are many Victorian novels that feature the evils of the opium den. Sherlock Holmes, that inveterate purveyor of cocaine, often had to rescue recalcitrant clients from the opium dens found in the China town.

Let's take a look at Chesterfield cigarettes. According to the company, doctors say there are "no adverse effects to the nose, throat, or sinuses." I guess they hadn't discovered cancer yet. Wrong. They had, but this is big tobacco at work.

A great show to see this kind of media manipulation at work is Mad Men. It's set at an advertising firm in the late 1950s, early 1960s and they do a whole show on advertising Lucky Strike cigarettes where the owners of the tobacco company insist that cigarettes are good for you.

Speaking of cigarettes...

Asthma Cigarettes, really? These beauties will relieve your "paroxysms of asthma." Somehow I doubt it.

There are also ads for bourbon and scotch toothpaste.

There are even advertisements for aspirin with heroin when you really want to kill your headache (excuse the pun).

DDT had a jingle, "D-D-T is good for meeee!"

At Christmas time, Colt said "Get Mother what she really wants for Christmas - a Colt" featuring a housewife wielding a Colt-45 in front of a Christmas tree. You better like your presents this year!

But the prize for the worst taste in advertisements? The blind, Stevie Wonder, selling Ataris! I mean, c'mon.

Are these things even around anymore? If they are they should just go out of business for being this insensitive. Maybe it's just that we are more sensitive to the feelings of others today, or maybe everyone in history is crazy.

Hmmm....what will your children think of us? Will we look crazy?

What ads do you see on television, YouTube, or Hulu that we might find distasteful or insensitive in the future?

What products do we advertise today that we might look back with embarrassment in twenty or thirty years?


  1. Advertisements are all over YouTube i can attest to that. On television companies will spend millions on Superbowl adds because so many people are watching. Doritos are famous for having these commercial slots. If people today were embarrassed of one advertisement it might be these Doritos commercials, they are pretty weird a lot of the time and out of context could be very embarrassing. The Stevie Wonder advertisement is pretty ridiculous considering he is bling and probably cannot see anything on the screen. Advertisements will never go away because of how well they work. They make people want to go get the item that is advertised. Pretty soon ads will be popping up in our brains with our installed chips making shopping so much easier.

  2. I audibly laughed at the Stevie Wonder Atari magazine ad. The ad is in poor taste, yes, but we are still talking about it almost 40 years later - it appears to have achieved its goal. I like to call this the Donald Trump effect: it doesn't matter if the attention is positive or negative, there is buzz around the water cooler as a result and that's all you really need to stay relevant today. It is very effective.
    Perhaps I am being naive, but I do not think there will be much, if any, ads that will be found insensitive or distasteful in the future. I feel as if our country has taken political correctness so far that nearly every big business has to walk on eggshells or they will be crucified by the left for non-inclusion or appropriation of one's culture. "How dare Panda Express appropriate Chinese culture!" They serve Chinese food. I think they are in their lane. I didn't originally intend for this comment to become political. Ironically, I think the only thing we will look back at this era and find distasteful or insensitive is our President, not the YouTube ads.

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  4. In regards to the adds seen on YouTube and on Television, I have seen many fast food adds that made me a little uncomfortable. There are some adds that are too forced and silly. The commercial add for Panda Express's new addition was something to laugh about. They tried to win the audience over with a catchy song that sounded way out of tune. Even though they take their work as a restaurant seriously, I think they should focus on their customers.

    Katherine M. Wencelsao Soto


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