The 13 Most Disturbing Vintage Ads for Household Products
All of the following ads are real and unaltered, so don't blame us. We weren't there when they were made, and in some cases the entire insane thought process that went into creating them has been lost to history. Maybe they made perfect sense at the time?
Maybe. But it's really hard to see how even our parents and grandparents didn't get nightmares from ...
Three-Legged Dingo Boots
Here are some boots that you should buy, because famous people wear them. Three of them.
Yes, amazingly, the fact that this ad stars a pre-murder O.J. Simpson is the second-creepiest thing about it. And you can squint and try to read the text all you want -- it makes no reference whatsoever to the fact that their spokesperson has three legs. There's no cute slogan like "Boots so comfortable, you'll wish you had another foot!" Nope. It's like some guy in the art department just said, "Eh, I don't like how you can't really see the chair, let's just add another leg to fill that space."
We know what you're thinking: "Cracked, this is obviously a subtle 'big dick' joke. 'Third leg?' Get it?" But, no, it turns out this was a whole campaign they did with various celebrities, some of whom are women:
Like, uh ... this famous lady right here.
But O.J. seems to be the most frequent star of the "Third Leg" campaign, which apparently lasted for years. Note how his afro shrinks as he gets more comfortable with his new appendage:
The picture in that third ad would have been perfect for the cover of his book.
Please don't blame us for the inevitable nightmare in which O.J. is running after you, in the dark, those three boots pounding down the pavement after you with a noise like a wounded horse.
Lord West Suits Will Impress Your 7-Year-Old Date
"I like my women like I like my code names: 007."
Women of all ages dig men in tuxedos!
According to the text, this dinner suit is for "sophisticated traditionalists," a euphemism we weren't previously aware of for "child molesters." Because there's no other way to interpret this picture. That's not tenderness on their faces. That's hunger. If you told us that they're a father and daughter, that would only make it creepier.
And it turns out that this is only the worst example in a whole series of ads associating little girls with selling tuxedos.
The style is best described as Godfather meets Lolita.
Can you imagine the pitch meeting that led to this campaign? Picture Don Draper from Mad Men standing before his clients, selling them on this idea:
"Class. Elegance. Making out with little girls. These are the values your company represents."
"Did ... did you say 'making out with little girls,' Don?"
"Yes," replied Don with perfect confidence.
"OK, just making sure."
Sitting at the end of the table, Peggy looks at Don and smiles. He did it again.
Man in Tuxedo Carefully Considers Naked Child
"Told you it was bigger. Now pay up."
Regular soap sinks in the bathtub, causing children to take longer in washing themselves and their fathers to get angry and spank them. Prevent child abuse by buying Ivory Soap -- it floats.
OK, they're clearly just fucking with us at this point. Remove the text and the message becomes clear: "In the old days, child predators used to dress way better than they do now." But let's put the pedophilia overtones aside for the moment and examine the text.
Was the elaborate scenario described under the picture (involving childhoods ruined by non-floating soap) really such a common problem in the '20s, or was this based on the painful personal experiences of whoever commissioned this ad? We're betting on the latter option. Note that the father's body language doesn't say "I'm going to spank you" -- he's clearly pondering which part of the kid's body to break first.
"Maybe the 28th trimester isn't too late for an abortion."
"Are You Sure I'll Still Be a Virgin?"
"If you didn't think band camp counted, I don't see why you'd think this would."
Don't worry, teens, you can use Tampax tampons without losing your virginity.
Be honest: How many of you looked at this picture and immediately recognized it as a Tampax ad? And how many looked at it and thought it depicted a teenage girl being sexually propositioned? It's not just us, is it?
This ad would have looked 90 percent less sordid if both people involved were clearly visible. Instead, the second teenager is for some reason sitting on the floor of the porch with her back to us, so we can't see how young, or scared, she is. But, of course, all of that is purely from our own depraved imagination. The real ad is simply about two teenagers debating whether or not inserting a tampon counts as sex.
Escaped Convicts Love Revell Authentic Model Kits
"Is this the new plan, boss?"
"I've spent all day plotting against Superman; this is 'Lex Time'."
Hey kids! Check out these sweet model kits!
There's only one possible scenario in which this picture could have come to exist: The photographers were getting ready to shoot this ad when they realized that the boy who was supposed to be holding up the models in the picture never showed up for work. Panicking, the man from the ad agency looked around the studio.
"Dmitri, can you come here for a second?" he said to the guy who fixes the lighting. "Stand here and hold this model. Yes, that's great. You'll play the boy in this ad."
"But sir," said the photographer, "Dmitri was just released from jail. In fact, he's still wearing the prison jumpsuit."
"No, no, he's perfect. Look at him. Look at that childlike innocence in his face."
"Could you open the top button maybe, show a little chest hair?"
Our Competitors = Surgical Ass Torture
"Don't worry, sir, the gloves are just to establish atmosphere."
Using cheap toilet paper can lead to medical complications.
... which in turn can lead to rubber-gloved hands inserting clamps in your anus. Better play it safe and go with Scott Tissues.
This attempt to traumatize customers into buying their product with threats of anal torture was part of a whole marketing campaign created during the Great Depression in which Scott Tissues' slogan went from "Wipe your butt with us" to "Wipe your butt with us, or die in a world of asshole pain."
Of course, it was all bullshit: There's no such thing as "toilet tissue illness," it was just a thing they made up to convince people to keep buying tissues at a time when they were lucky enough if they had a toilet.
"Before You Scold Me, Mom ... Maybe You'd Better Light Up a Marlboro"
Before you beat your baby for stealing your favorite hat, have a cigarette and relax yourself. Then beat the baby.
How many times did this months-old child have to be punched before it learned to pick up the Marlboros and offer them to mommy to calm her down? If that's not the saddest thing you've imagined all week, you're dead inside. This is actually one in a series of ads from the '50s, back when Marlboro was targeting mommies instead of rugged cowboys. Sometimes the babies actually seem to be guilting their moms into smoking more.
"You turned me into an addict when I was a fetus, now deal with it."
Oddly enough, the version of this ad aimed at fathers doesn't involve scolding, but a pompous baby in a basket defending daddy's rather feminine cigarette tastes (the tiny text at the bottom boasts that the cigarettes have "beauty tips").
This is the kind of debate babies have all the time.
Clear Eyes Drops Will Unleash Your Eye Lasers
We're pretty sure that this is how Tom Cruise has sex.
Boy, will your eyes be clear when you use these eye drops.
Nobody wants their eyes to be so clear that your soul literally escapes your body and jumps into the lady you were flirting with at your aerobics class. That sounds awkward. The text here seems to indicate that this was supposed to be a sexy image of a man and a woman lovingly staring into each other's eyes -- at what point was that idea scrapped and replaced by an alien mating ritual in which the male and the female grab shoulders and unite their minds in psychic pleasure?
Imagine them locked in this position for the next 45 minutes as the laser of sex between them grows more and more intense. Thank you, Clear Eyes.
Myers's Rum: It's What Your Murderer Drank
Presenting the only time someone has worn that type of coat while fully clothed.
All the other rums taste like kiddie booze compared to Myers's Rum. Myers's Rum is so great, in fact, that it doesn't even have to submit to the most basic rules of grammar.
"Hey, uh, Joe?"
"Could you maybe ... not look at the camera like you want to rape and kill us? We're trying to sell a product here, after all."
"Oh, sorry. How's this?"
"No, that's ... still no good. Make it less rapey. Tone down the rape."
"So less 'I'm going to murder you,' then?"
"Less that, more 'Please buy my product.'"
"Gotcha. How about this?"
"Maybe if we take away the coat ..."
"Nobody touches my fucking coat."
Metrecal Diet Food Is Like Eating a Plate Full of Pink Paint
Look at those bubbles -- even the plate's trying to vomit.
Drink Metrecal diet food instead of eating regular meals and you'll be slim in no time!
This looks like someone is really confused about how to drink their cough syrup. See, there's a reason why most diet supplements focus on how slim this thing will supposedly make you look and not on the product itself: Most of that shit looks gross. They could have just shown a person drinking this vile stuff from the can, but instead they decided to draw comparisons with eating a steak, thus stressing the fact that this could never pass for one in any sense. And that's probably why they felt the need to apologize for the photo in the small print:
"And we said, 'Yeah, sure, what the fuck.'"
But what elevates this from simply unpleasant to creepy is that, after being introduced in the early '60s, Metrecal was actually pulled from the shelves in the '70s after the government linked the whole liquid diet fad to 59 deaths. So this didn't just look like some killer goo from a horror movie, that's actually what it was.
Vegetables Are as Fun as Robot Puke
Technology has advanced to the point where you no longer have to chop and mix your own vegetables: Now they come in a box. Welcome to the fantastic world of tomorrow.
"Eat the vomit of Billy the vegetable-spewing robot!"
It seems like at some point this was just supposed to be a cartoonish steam shovel dumping out the vegetables, but somebody decided that wasn't kid-friendly enough. So now the steam shovel is a living being, with human teeth, no less, and you are eating the rejected contents of its own digestive system.
"You don't even want to know what we do to fruit."
Look, it's fine to put a wacky mascot in your ad, but we never want to think we're eating something from that mascot's body. Cocoa Pebbles don't insist that they're tiny dried bits of Fred Flintstone's shit. This ad was hardly the first offender, though ...
Related: The 7 Creepiest Old School Robots
Fresh Fish Oil, and We Mean Really Fresh
One of those spigots is a reproductive organ, isn't it?
This fresh fish oil is as fresh as literally tapping a freshly caught fish.
We have no idea how this is supposed to make the product more appealing. Not only are these children drinking fish juice directly out of faucets implanted on a giant fish, but the fish is alive, and it is watching them. Look at that eye, pointed directly at the small humans slowly emptying its own innards. Look at that mouth, wide open in terror and confusion.
And not just because of the large hook painfully inserted in it.
Look, advertisers, you're supposed to make us forget the horror involved in producing the stuff we eat, not make it worse.
Shadow Children Like Sanitol
You have no idea how many tries it took for us to not write "Satanol" in this entry's title.
Your happy little sailor will brush his teeth all day if you give him this crap.
A sailor, or some sort of other-dimensional shadow demon, crudely shaped into the form of a child in an effort to mock God's creations.
We honestly want to know -- what the hell is going on here? Don't tell us it's a crude racist representation of a black child. Look at the hair. Hell, even the whites of his eyes are black.
"Come on, Cracked. It's clearly just a printing error, they just reversed the colors, that's all."
OK. Sure. That's probably it. Here, let's try it the other way:
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The Most Unintentionally Disturbing McDonald's Ad.