Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bad ads

Looking through the old issues of Life magazine on Google Books is an education on the middle decades of the Twentieth Century, especially in the advertising.

I've picked out some ads that caught my eye. The first one, from 1940, I chose because of the cowboy on the bucking bronco, who isn't selling rodeo, but coffee. The cowboy needs his coffee, except the copy writer decided that wasn't enough, so he tagged it with the phrase, "COFFEE CHEERS YOU UP!" and even included clip art of a lady in her closet and the tag, "HAVEN'T YOU GOT A THING TO WEAR? CHEER UP. What you need is a cup of coffee!" That's throwing everything into the ad but the kitchen sink, hoping some sense will come out of it. Better to have stuck with just one of the elements. "COFFEE CHEERS YOU UP!" is a stupid slogan. I drink a lot of coffee and it makes me alert, or gives me the jitters depending on how much I've had. It doesn't cheer me up. The cowboy on the bronco seems out of place because he can't drink coffee while a horse is trying to throw him off. The lady in the closet looking for something to wear just needs to concentrate. Another cup of coffee could just make her more nervous because she can't make up her mind.

On second thought...throw the whole ad out and start fresh with something, anything, else.

That ad doesn't hold a match to my next choice, also from 1940, Spud Cigarettes. Spud? Cigarettes? A Spud is a potato. I assume Spud Cigarettes were made with tobacco and not potatoes. There's a reason you've never heard of Spuds. They probably died a horrible death from consumer disinterest. It looks like they were marketing to women. No woman would go to a grocer or tobacconist and say, "Gimme a pack of Spuds." Lucky Strike, Chesterfield, Pall Mall, maybe even Camel...but not Spud.

Finally, my favorite ad of the bunch, which comes from 1966, and is supposedly about the 1966 Chevrolet Corvair Monza. It's really about sex.

Why is the driver old enough to be the girl's father? Why is she looking coyly up from behind her magazine at us? Why is she barelegged and barefoot? Why does she have on tight shorts? Why is her labia outlined?

No company like General Motors pays millions of dollars on advertising without carefully researching how to market their product. The red Corvair convertible isn't a car, it's for attracting girls. Of course, by the time Dad and Mom and their kids have been to the Chevrolet showroom where Dad is just dying to see the new Corvair, they will take home a beige 4-door family car. Like a lot of guys, Dad was lured somewhere with the promise of sex, and then left dangling.


DEMiller said...

The coffee ad seems to be trying to attract males and females by appealing to their most basic senses. Maybe SPUD cigs were marketing Irish women. The car ad is a classic in subliminal advertising. You sure picked up on that one.

El Postino said...

The coffee ad wouldn't have mentioned the jitters, which I have now after drinking a pot of coffee over the past few hours.

Great catch on Irish women targeted for the Spud ad!

Would advertisers of today try to pull off an ad like the '66 Corvair ad? If anything it'd probably be even more explicit.