8 Vintage Ads Ripped Directly from Your Nightmares

With the right lighting and soundtrack, the most innocuous things in the world are the most sinister. For example, it's dusk and you see a solitary kid rocking slowly on a squeaky swing set. Do you think, "Aww, how cute!" or do you run because you know a Dementor will be there at any moment? Probably the latter. When advertisers created the following ads, they probably had no idea they were actually making horror movie posters.

#8. The Future's So Bright, You'll Not Want to Go There

Modern Mechanix

If ad campaigns were people, this one would be sweating profusely, wringing his hands, and yelling, "It's not what it looks like, I swear!" And then he'd commit suicide. Because what it looks like is a nightmare future where children sunbathe in the nude under the intimate supervision of Dr. Horrible ... all thanks to dehydrated milk. For the benefit of our blind friends, let's do a quick breakdown of all that's wrong with this Cocomalt ad. In this one image we have:

  • A flock of topless toddlers.

  • An army line of dark-skinned diaper-clad children marching through the frozen tundra. OR an army line of children wearing black morphsuits.

  • One happy child playing in the surf, tank top askew to reveal a nipple.

  • Two TOTALLY nude boys bathing under a sunlamp and the glare of a grown man staring at their bottom parts.

Next time you're having a heated holiday argument with your grandparents (because you're awful ... who argues with their grandparents?), just remind them how OK past generations were with child nudity and you'll win. After all, Shirley Temple, Jodie Foster, the Olsen twins, and the Ubu dog all started their careers in various states of undress. But even if we sweep the specter of child nakedness into the Things We Dare Not Talk About Containment Unit, there's still a whole lot of scary going on with this ad. Like the fact that every kid minus Happy Nipples looks like an eyeless robot. Or if you look hard enough, the sun lamp isn't a lamp at all, but a giant spiked German helmet from World War I.

It's not until you read the text that you figure out what's going on here. Before our elders discovered the dangers of overexposure to UV rays or pedophilia, winter and sunless days were considered the enemy of good health. As if the season of winter were personally murdering kids on the daily.

No wonder so many kids turned hobo during the Great Depression ... roofs were the worst. Ovaltinish Cocomalt, with its infusion of vitamin D, was the perfect substitute for sunshine and clothes. But they couldn't just show a kid drinking some Cocomalt and being healthy -- they needed to show what Cocomalt represented. Thus the collage of nude sunbathers and Mr. Voyeur. COCOMALT: Just what the most awful pediatrician in town ordered.

#7. Roger Sterling Has Got Your Kid

Jon Williamson

Listen up, sweater makers. It's not hard to sell your wares. Illustrate a happy family sitting by the fire, drinking hot cocoa. Draw snow. Better yet, give us Bill Cosby. Our imaginations will do the rest. Here's a quick mock up of a sweater ad I just wrote.


Try to evoke "cozy" and "warm" and "snuggy huggy." It's not hard. People love sweaters. Do you know what people don't love? Old men creeping at the window. Imagine you're in your living room, you hear a rap on the glass, and this is what you see. Either this man is taunting you as he prepares to steal your child or this is the last thing your eyes behold before these two break into your house and eat your face off.

It's especially bad if you look beyond your future killers to the unearthly sky behind them. It's not black, like the night sky, or light blue, like the day sky. There are no stars, no moon, no streetlights, no passing airplanes. It's an unearthly steel color, as if these two are the harbingers of a new world order, one where up is down and sweaters are the garments of choice for a new race of people eaters. Either that, or that gift behind Junior's back is The Watchtower and you've already made eye contact. You have no choice but to open the door. Again, not the best way to advertise sweaters!

#6. Decapitation Is Sexy


Here's a fun secret: Every little girl wants to play with a giant severed Barbie head. Don't act shocked. Here's one that kids of the '70s played with:

Here's Herbie

YIKES. My bad. That is definitely Cher waiting for someone to work their beauty magic on her face, hair, and clavicle area. Here's what they look like now:


When real girls from the '60s and '70s wanted to do their impossibly springy curls, they used actual tape to fasten their hair in place. The same tape could also double as tape for wrapping presents or tightening double chins. When Scotch Tape wanted to advertise their brand of hair-curling tape, they took their cue from decapitated dolls that girls love to play with. Which is how we ended up with a woman's head mounted on a fancy roll of toilet paper. Maybe she represents the consumer, who wants to look like a bodiless doll. Correction: dolly. The ad definitely says "dolly." Do you want to look like a Christmas dolly? Scotch Curling Tape thinks you do, so they took it upon themselves to humanize severed doll heads. It's weird and misguided, but whatever, Scotch Tape. You do what you've got to do to get eyes on your product. We could have done without the extra neck inches, though.

Record scratch. What is this????

At the altar of the Severed One are two tiny, cowering, fully bodied dolls, clearly terrorized by the head who is now their master. From here, they kind of look Japanese, so I'm not sure if this was some kind of message about American imperialism or nuclear energy turning heads into hot air balloons or what. All I know is that what started as an ill-advised campaign turned into a menacing warning that nobody gets.

#5. The Nitty Gritty Dirty Whiskey Ad


Hey, hey you. You there. Come here. You smell nice. What's that? Charlie? Jovan? White Shoulders? Chantilly? Chanel? Soft & Dri? Hey. Hey. Hey. Hey. You like whiskey? Sure you do. I said COME CLOSER. Want some of my Dick whiskey? Get it? Get it? Sorry, George DICKEL whiskey. Here, I got you your own glass. This one. Not that one. This one. Here. Drink it. Drink it. Drink it. That's not the glass I fixed special for you. Put it down. Drink this one. This one. Here. This one. No? Then go to hell. Dick Dhiskey.

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Kristi Harrison

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