Tuesday, June 20, 2006

"Why--They're All Bent!"

Click on pic for larger image.


One tactic of advertising is to take products no one has ever heard of, don't want, don't need, and create in us a need for them.

My brother and I first saw this ad from an old 1950 crime comic book in the mid-1960s. We got a big kick out of the dialogue.

A technique of advertising is to make us feel paranoid about having some sort of inferiority which a product can correct. We can be upset about a social or sexual problem that can be solved easily if we just buy something.

This ad perpetuates the old stereotypes about women being gold-diggers and shrews. The woman in the ad suddenly turns against her date when his cigarettes are bent! Not only that, the gigolo with a pencil-thin mustache, in a white dinner jacket, is there to steal her away with his plastic $1.98 All-in-One Cigarette Case and Lighter. Wow, any woman willing to leave a guy for that wouldn't be worth having in the first place. Her date, because of his lack of the basic skill of providing for her an unbent cigarette has suddenly become impotent; a craven coward who won't fight for his woman, but asks wimpishly of his successful rival, "Where can I get a combination cigarette case and lighter like that?" His girlfriend's new paramour tells him and why not? He's now got the girl!

What kid reading this ad would want that to happen to him? He'd better save up the money he earns on his paper route and buy a dozen of them. No use risking a faux pas like that at any time in his future.

Also, the ad covertly reinforces the idea that smoking is cool and sexy. Bogart got away with it and he looked great with a cigarette in his mouth, right up until he got lung cancer. These folks at the nightclub aren't worried about that, though; the woman especially, who is more worried about snagging a "real man" with his unbent cigarettes.

When I re-read this ad a few days ago I thought with some tweaking it could be turned into an ad for erectile dysfunction. For the word "cigarette" substitute the word "penis." Nowadays Viagra ads show couples in a happy afterglow thanks to a pill, but in this ad it shows the shame that comes from having a dysfunction, especially a bent one.

I wonder how many of these things they sold 56 years ago when this ad appeared? I wonder if there are still any around? After all, every man wants his cigarette to stand straight and tall.

Ciao for now, El Postino

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