The 16 Most Hilariously Dishonest Old School Advertisements
Modern advertising constantly straddles the line between creative marketing and straight-up bullshit. But back in the old days, advertising companies got away with winning their bread and butter through straight poker-faced lies.
Almost All Women are Poisonous
From the Questionable Statistics Department comes this ad depicting an assembly line of identical blondes who have to cross their legs at the ankles to keep their nether regions from exploding like angry beehives. The ad's vision of "procurable women" looks more like a store shelf of Barbie dolls, or the inside of a serial killer's eyelids when asked to picture "procurable women."
The real question is what they were even trying to accomplish here. Did they want to eradicate sex altogether? Were the Nazis trying to infiltrate the U.S. Navy with an army of gonorrhea-infected Stepford clones? Or was this a very specific piece of propaganda aimed at the three young sailors who would go on to star in the "Pep Boys" logo?
Our money's on Option 3.
Samaria Cures the Drink Curse
The real miracle here is not just that the husband was cured of alcoholism, but that he was cured without his knowledge. Apparently, it was months before he noticed that he was no longer hanging out with his drinking buddies at the bar after work, drinking to dull the pain, and that he'd stopped throwing up bloody chunks of his own liver each morning.
This highly scientific ad promises that the man in the turban and his faux-Arabic pills will cure your husband's "drinking curse." If Samaria doesn't work, at least sneaking around and secretly dosing his drink will give you the practice you need to make your husband's incurable drinking problem goes away forever.
You might be tempted to laugh about how childlike and naive people of the 1920s must have been to fall for a scam as ridiculous as "La-Mar Fat Reducing Soap." It's less funny when you think about how huge the market is today for penis-enlarging lotions.
Pepsi Makes You Thin and Beautiful
"One look at this modern hostess' silhouette and you can just about guess the kind of thing she keeps in that refrigerator."
It's meth, right?
Oh, no, it's Pepsi. The diet of choice for snake-necked, oddly angular 1950s women. Though since the active ingredient in Coca-Cola used to be cocaine, who knows what their rivals were using? (We do. We're saying it's meth.)
From the company that brought you asbestos teething toys, it's Trimz DDT children's wallpaper! Because it's totally intuitive that the best way to protect your children from insects is to fill their room with a powerful insecticide. Just make sure they don't lick the walls.
Chesterfield Cigarettes: Good for Your Throat
According to the charming man in the ad, a "medical specialist" surveyed a group of Chesterfield smokers and found they had no problems with their throats, noses or mouths. Medical specialists were probably thrilled to learn that Chesterfield would be pairing their endorsement with an announcement of the "first and only" super-sized cigarette. Because if smokers of regular Chesterfields show no adverse effects, smokers of king-size probably develop super powers.
Still, it's not the most dubious claim they've ever made about cigarettes. That award goes to ...
Dr. Batty's Cigarettes Cure Everything
This ad, straight out of Contraryville, Opposite County, United States of Bullshit, advises cigarettes as a treatment for asthma, lung irritations and bad breath. Also, we suppose, they whiten teeth and make your wallet heavier, and if you smoke them for 40 years, they have been known to cure cancer.
JouJou Breast Supporter/Slicer
The JouJou Breast Supporter is a futuristic device that finally gives women relief from those swollen, painful meat sacks growing out of their freak chests. Don't be fooled by the fact that it looks like a totally ordinary bra. Not only does it relieve the pain of nature's mistakes, but it also cures cancer, as well as ... wait, what?
Your Nerves Crave Ovaltine
Here we were thinking that anxiety was a serious mental condition, but this old advertisement is here to set us straight -- nervousness is actually a sign of acute Ovaltine deficiency.
Ovaltine is portrayed here not only as a cure for insomnia (a bold claim for a caffeinated drink) but as a downright miracle potion, "supremely rich in nerve-restoring nourishment." So sleep soundly, stupid old-timey housewife. There's no army of rapists trying to break into your house, you just need to get back into the kitchen and fix yourself a malted milk.
Lose Weight, Eat More Sugar
OK, there's technically nothing misleading about the statement that eating ice cream before lunch will probably make you feel like eating less. It's the same principle that dictates you'll eat much less salad at dinnertime if you chomp down on a Big Mac beforehand.
On the subject of Big Macs:
McDonald's Is Technically Real Food
Why, it's just bread, meat, milk and potatoes! That's the same kind of stuff doctors are always telling you to eat. And our rendered bacon fat milkshakes are made from 100 percent real pig!
The Ford Pinto -- It'll Be Worth Something Someday
In an ironic twist, this ad might actually be correct. If you own a functional, running, nonexploded Ford Pinto, then it probably would be worth something today just from the sheer odds-defying mathematical unlikelihood of that proposition.
Presumably Ford knew their new car was a piece of shit and went with the tried and true "place it next to successful things and hope people get confused" approach.
Beware the Orphan Asylum
The Prudential Insurance Company of America preferred to let this stark image speak for itself. Miss a payment on your life insurance and your wife will be forced to hand your children over to the world's meanest looking woman, and they will live the rest of their lives in a Charles Dickens novel moving around trash with a stick. Like a cliched reality TV star, Prudential isn't here to make friends. They're here for the money.
Juicy Fruit: As Addictive as Crack
The family's supply of Juicy Fruit is low, which means they've gotten all 25 minutes of flavor out of their 300 pack. It's not that Wrigley's gum is made from crack; it's just that children are addicted to the health benefits of chewing on processed sugar after every meal.
Overland -- It's Made of Steel!
This advertisement for the now defunct "Overland" car brand excitedly declares that "steel is 30 times stronger than wood!" And that's how Overland saved the world from road fatalities and revolutionized the automobile industry. Oh no, actually, they went out of business and nobody remembers them.
Sea Monkeys: Just Shrimp After All
Perhaps the most iconic bullshit ad of all time. Even in the 1970s, everyone had to have known the Sea Monkeys thing was full of shit. And yet, there was always that lingering feeling that for only $1.25 you could own a breed of intelligent mer-people who served you as their king. Add to that the promise that your sea monkeys would be "clowning around" and "learning tricks" for your amusement.
Instead, you got a packet of quarter-inch frozen brine shrimp. Because this is the real world, Timmy.
Matthew Culkin is a junior English major at Tulane University. Reach him for comment or writing opportunity at MRCulkin@gmail.com, or follow him at @MRCulkin.
And stop by LinkSTORM to laugh at the past some more.
Do you have an idea in mind that would make a great article? Then sign up for our writers workshop! Do you possess expert skills in image creation and manipulation? Mediocre? Even rudimentary? Are you frightened by MS Paint and simply have a funny idea? You can create an infograpic and you could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow!