More Sexist Ads from Vintage to Present Day
If you think sexist advertising is a thing of the past, where have you been? Though sexism in marketing was prevalent in the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s, sexist stereotypes are still, unbelievably so, rolling out of the misogynistic Mad Men minds of Madison Avenue or where ever their advertising agency may be.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that some of the early ads from the 1940s and 50s used to make me chuckle from their absurdity. Now, I just shake my head. What’s really remarkable to me is that the objectifying of women, the misogyny, the shaming with guilt still goes on today! How does that happen? What agency that has any sense or values presents and promotes these ideas? How does a client sign off with their approval of these ads?
Okay, well, I’ve worked as a copywriter and creative director in the advertising arena for over three decades for agencies both global and small. And I once wrote and produced a TV commercial for the Michigan Dental Association back around 2002. It was a silly little spot that spoofed classic 1950s monster movies, you know, like The Werewolf. After it aired, a psychiatrist called up the MDA to complain that the commercial portrayed, and I quote, “every virginal woman’s rape fantasy.” I kid you not. You can view the commercial below…
Now, I did not intentionally set out to depict every virginal woman’s rape fantasy. In fact, if someone had asked me to do so, I wouldn’t have even known where to begin. I had no idea that every virginal woman had a rape fantasy, let alone the same one that involved a werewolf and good oral hygiene. So if I did offend anyone, please accept my sincere apology.
Sexist Behavior in My Workplaces
Werewolf aside, I cannot recall any advertising we produced that came close to treading these sexist waters. However, I did bear witness to a great deal of sexism and sexual harassment in the agency workplace, particularly when I started in the ad biz in the 1980s back in Detroit, MI. Let me give you a couple of examples…
Back around 1986, during my first job as a copywriter at Campbell-Ewald (now Lintas:Campbell-Ewald) on the national Chevrolet account, I had this boss, a big gregarious, handsome ex-Marine, who was probably in his early 40s. He had this habit of grabbing young “secretaries” and throwing them over his shoulder before running down the hallway to his office where he would proceed to handcuff them to his office chair.
A couple of years later, 1988-89ish, I moved to BBDO, Detroit to work on the Chrysler Dodge account. It was the dawning of the computer age in advertising. For the first time, our art directors got Macs to work on (writers didn’t get computers, ‘said we didn’t need them). It was an exciting time. Getting computers was a game–changer. And BBDO, why bless their hearts, purchased enough Macs so that each male art director could have their own in their office. For the women art directors? Well, they stuck one in the hall for them to share.
(This 1970s Charger R/T menage a trois ad pre-dates my time working on the Dodge account. But read the copy! WoW!)
Luckily, I haven’t witnessed such blatant and openly accepted sexist behavior in years. But I know the sexism is still there. Maybe not where I am now. But I know it’s still there, hidden behind closed doors and performed in more of a Harvey Weinstein and Trump sorta way… the comments, the suggestions, the manipulation and power moves. Everyone has a story. And I applaud everyone who has had the courage to come out to tell theirs.
Dang, I didn’t intend to spill all this stuff when I started this post. But there you have it. And here you have some more of the best of the worst in sexist ads from vintage to new…
So THAT’S how you please a woman! Appliances! Silly me. For some reason I thought it might be by supporting her in her career, being her true partner in everything, understanding and not taking her for granted… goofy stuff like that. But nope. It’s irons and toasters for Christmas!
This would be better if they were werewolves.
As the ad copy reads about pleasing your Inner-Man… “When you plan, are you fair to yourself? Are you complimenting your delicious dishes by serving the best beer ever brewed?”… Well, are you ladies? C’mon! Compliment yourself by giving your man a Bud!
The BK Super 7-incher… It’s really only 5… All men lie.
J&B Rare… For when she says “no” and you’re out of roofies.
Let’s come right out and body shame, why don’t we? And throw in a little insult with “girl” while we’re at it.
Because you’re not smart enough to figure it out for yourself, ask a pimple-faced teenage boy what to do. He’s sure to know.
While it is so tempting to insert in a Bill Clinton joke with this Manakin Cigar ad, but I will resist.
It is not enough that she is pole dancing on the phallic lipstick, the dude’s hand strategically placed on his crotch rocket puts it over the top.
Seriously, Acora, Ltd? You with your all-male leadership team seriously went there???
At first glance of this banner ad for Spirit Airlines, I thought it was just a blatant oral sex reference. Then I noticed the razor and that the letters are made of hair! Damn! With the money one saved, you’d think they could have popped for a Bermuda!
The only thing worse than moring mouth is waking up without your makeup fully done.
Chalk it up to another case of morning mouth.
Gosh, that’s a relief because you know that she would only abuse it, and after all, your money is technically your money.
“Isn’t it natural for every girl to want popularity, romance, a devoted husband? What a pity, then, to see lovely girls like these losing out because they are careless about perspiration odor in underthings…” Lux, girls, Lux!
The only thing missing from this here is a new Hoover vacuüm cleaner. But “shhh”… that’s coming for Christmas!
This Bic pen ad in South saluting Women’s Day cause a fury of a Twitter storm before being pulled.
Is this where Bic got the idea? But there is truth to it! 76% of workplace accidents for ‘girls’ are caused by trying to use one of the long, thick and heavy man-size pens!
Isn’t this what amphetamines are for? Every good housewife knows that!
Could be worse. This Silva Thins ad could have said, “Cigarettes are like women becasue they cause cancer.”
For just 15 cents, you, too, could learn the manly art of spousal abuse from an eminent practicioner!
What about the disease-loaded men that loosely spread the dame thing in the first place?
“Take it, grandma! It’s circumcised!”
Jimmy Choo Fashions… Get some.
Careful. Just a glimpse of anything new or technological will spook your old mare!
Love the last lines of copy… “Well? Should you offer? After all, if she likes the offer, She might start to play. No strings attached.” C’mon, guys! Stick a Tiparilo in her face. That’s all it takes!
How could any woman resist a 10-pound load?
If you’d like to take a gander at more vintage sexist advertising, click this.
If you love vintage ads in general, check out Found in Mom’s Basement. This site is loaded with great old advertising samples