Five 1970s Ads That Make Me Facepalm

Published on December 5th, 2011 in: Dancing Ourselves Into The Tomb, Issues, Listicles, Media, Staff Picks, Top Five Lists |

By Emily Carney

Apparently in the 1970s, taste and class were elements not yet added to advertising pitches. I have several interesting books related to 1970s ads including some truly classy ones. I actually bought these when I briefly studied ad writing in college. I am just going to provide a brief capsule summary of “the best” and I will allow you, dear reader, to write the rest of the scenarios depicted in your skull. Good luck and have fun.

bendix ad

1. Bendix Corporation, selling what, I have no idea.

Here we see some corporate fat cat dad-type in his station wagon glaring at some young hippie punk on a motorcycle. The copy attempts to dissect the “generation gap” which was so troubling (what?) in 1970. The two men eyeball each other menacingly like a fight is about to bust out between the Squares and the Hippies on I-275. Before texting while driving was a dangerous epidemic causing thousands of traffic accidents, apparently the Gangsta Generational War of 1970 Which May or May Not Have Actually Existed created lots of problems at traffic signals. I really have no clue what this advertisement was trying to sell or say.

cards n kent ad

2. Kent Cigarettes.

This ad shows a 1970s-appropriate beautiful African-American woman smoking a Kent cigarette, looking like a badass Pam Grier. At first glance, you may not find anything offensive. However, this was the tobacco companies’ attempt to win over the African-American audience, who are no doubt not immune to cigarette-related ills such as lung cancer and emphysema. Later we would see this theme extended to selling cigarettes to younger demographics, creating further generations hooked on cancer sticks. Note: I used to smoke; I am aware I am a bit of a hypocrite writing this. However, I am also more than aware of the very real health risks associated with smoking.

male jeans

3. Male Jeans.

Awww, look at this ad! She’s reciting a coffeehouse-style poem—can you hear the bongos and flutes playing in the background? I CAN! She’s a true patriot—look at her nifty American flag jeans! These jeans are for America, everyone! Oh wait . . . TITS! FUNBAGS! BOOBIES! Any message about patriotism and individuality sort of died with the fact that the poor lady in this ad was not allowed to wear a shirt. Then again, the jeans are called “Male” jeans. At any rate, someone get a cable-knit sweater for this woman’s 1970s-style floppy boobs.

interwoven socks ad

4. Interwoven Socks.

Get it? He’d rather wear these socks, or nothing at all! Of course, there’s some poor woman wearing vaguely sleazy lingerie in this ad, too. Moreover, the commercial manages to pimp the awful-smelling English Leather cologne. Despite the women’s movement, women were still second-class citizens in most advertisements from this period, even in ads for their own products (i.e., jeans, cosmetics, cigarettes, etc.).

macho cologne

5. Macho Cologne.

Sometimes the jokes just write themselves. Seriously, look at the shape of the damn bottle and then get back to me.

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