Awkward Ads

Sometimes, you come across a vintage advertisement that makes you do a double take. You ask yourself if you're really seeing what you're seeing, or you start to feel uncomfortable looking at the ad. Such is the case with the collection I've gathered for this post. Many of these left me shaking my head.

Like the first one, above, promoting hair color. I have no problem with the kids being topless, even the girls--they don't have breasts yet. However, I couldn't help but notice that one of the gingers appears to be pinching another girl's nipple. It just looks really awkward and struck me as funny. I imagine this was the result of a photo shoot that was a challenge, trying to wrangle a dozen young kids and getting them to stand still and look into the camera. Come to think of it, some of the adult models aren't even looking directly into the camera. 

Next up is this Volkswagen Beetle spot. These prints ads made such an iconic campaign for the car, but this one missed the mark severely. "Women are soft and gentle, but they hit things. Most other VW parts are interchangeable, too. Inside and out. Which means your wife isn't limited to fender smashing. She can jab the hood. Graze the door. Or bump off the bumper."

Yikes. Normally I give passes to retro ads that others find sexist, but this one is undeniably insulting. Could you imagine the uproar it would cause today?

Words fail me. "Teens too chubby to fit into regular sizes" is really the icing on the cake. Yet, this was frank and honest language for overweight people back in the day. 

Lord West did a print campaign in the 60s and 70s with the tagline "...and the lady approves" featuring young daughters with their dads. As sweet and innocent as the intention was, the problem is the gesture in this particular ad just seems waaaaaaaay too intimate...they look like they're about to make out. It's too close for consumers' comfort...certainly mine. 

As if that's not creepy enough, check out THIS male model and daughter. Where the devil did they find this dude? And the little girl looks scared. 

I don't care what anyone says; male underwear ads of yesteryear are always awkward. Unless you have a solo male model standing modestly, there's no good way to execute these ads...and for some reason, many featured groups of men. I think it's weird that the dude behind the seated guy has one foot up on the back of his chair. 

But it could be worse. We could always feature sweaty macho men wrestling with the tagline "Let's Get Down to Business." This brand touted its "stretchy seat."

Or how about we feature three average Joe Schmoes? I feel sorry for the old man...clearly, that is not a Jockey semi-brief but a Depends diaper with extra padding. The second dude reminds me of Judd Hirsch from Taxi and the last guy looks like he's ready to get his freak on with the animal print brief and necklace. Grrrrr, tiger!

These guys, on the other hand, look like they're cracking up at their matching printed get-ups or are ready to par-ty!

Feminine hygiene ads always seem a little's a tricky product to shill, for sure. But for the love of Tampax, why is his face so close to her derriere? If I had a date during that time of the month, I wouldn't want to subject him to...well, to this. Forget the old adage ladies first"...for his sake, he should be ahead of her climbing up the hill.  

I think I saved the best for last. Talk about an extremely awkward product for children, which is certainly not being helped by the choice of the child model. 


  1. The first one is like a pedo's dream! eep!

  2. These are all excellent examples of adverts gone terribly wrong, dear Pam. Right or wrong, PC or not, I will give my impressions.

    The first one appears to be a composite. The arm and hand supposedly belonging to the girl doing the pinching look like they were added in post production rather than during an actual photo shoot.

    I think Europeans are much less homophobic when it comes to ads showing two or more males bonding with each other. I also believe images of men touching each other affectionately produce a much more negative reaction today than they did decades ago.

    It is very jarring indeed to read sexist ads like the one for VW. I've been watching many 60s television series lately and the female characters in them are routinely devalued, dismissed and abused. It's appalling.

    I agree that the child model in the ad featuring Evil Knievel looks like one of the flesh eating ghouls in Night of the Living Dead! (LOL)

    To sum it up, I reacted the same way you did to all of these ads. They made me squirm in discomfort. Yet, we need to realize that our perceptions are based on our conditioning. In a way, modern society is cursed. All of us have "guilty knowledge" of the dark side of human nature because we are exposed to true life horror stories every day on the news. We can no longer gaze at images that were intended to be innocent without reading something else into them. That said, we must also keep in mind that sex sells and "subliminal seduction" has long been a primary strategy of advertisers. For better or worse, techniques like the ones used in these ads have proven effective in getting people motivated to purchase products and services.

  3. Yup. The last one definitely cracked me up!

  4. As for that girl in the "chubby" dress, I was going to say I remember the embarrassment of Sears "husky jeans" from the mid-70s; but after doing a google, I see that's still the term they use!

    Dammit I don't know how guys walked around in baggy boxers back in the day--I dont like my junk in freefall!

  5. Ewwwwwww! So scary when we look back at them! Ha!

  6. I don't think the one for plus-sized clothing was intended to be frank, they had a sortof movement at the time where u could go to meetups with other chubby ppl and they had a whole society based on the concept lolol, it's just that they acknowledged that they were overweight and reclaimed it


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