Ads #39: Christmas Ads

No one loves 1970s advertising more than me; however, you just can't deny the quality of advertising that came out of the 1950s and early 60s.  This was the official Mad Men era, and the ads reflected very direct and unashamed marketing techniques.  These were the days when every ad didn't feel the need to be oh-so-clever.  A nifty slogan and some brilliant artwork/design were all that was needed.

Take the ad above.  I'm drooling over the incredible illustration.  There's definitely a Mad Men flavor - the man is king of his castle and the females are there to love and adore him.  

What's the note say? "Merry Christmas.... and I expect the rugs to be clean enough to eat off of. Your Loving Husband, Bruce"

What gets me is the smile on her face.... she's utterly enamored by her new vacuum cleaner.  To be fair, if that was the woman's daily job, I guess it would be nice to get a vacuum cleaner that had better suction and wasn't as back breaking to operate.  Just a thought.

We live in such an anti-smoking climate that the advertisement above is shocking at first glance.  Little kids buying cigarette lighters? Somebody call the police and have that man arrested!

Then you realize this was the 1950s.  Kids weren't kept in a impenetrable protective bubble back then.... if the young lads burned themselves, they learned a valuable lesson and moved on - it wasn't the end of the world.  These kids are buying their dear old dad (thank you Mad Men) a Zippo for Christmas.  This is as innocent as a Norman Rockwell painting.   Get over it.

The 1950s were certainly the Golden Era of the middle class American man.  He was back from war in the world's greatest booming economy, and his wife kept the homestead clean, meals at the ready, wearing pearls to keep her man happy.

Of course, I'm glamorizing.  Mad Men did a great job at revealing both the Male Utopia aspect as well as the despicable dark side.

Ladies' Home Journal Dec 1953

"There's something special about these Gibson Christmas Cards... The Gibson name on the back of every card so unmistakably, you sent the very finest.  That's why box assortments of Gibson cards grow more popular every year..... So select yours right away.  And this Christmas the Gibson name will say for you too, you sent the very finest."

Wow. It's such a "non-2010" ad copy.  No cleverness, no self deprecation, and no reservation about saying "ours is the best - all the rest are shit."


From the homes of Mad Men everywhere, Merry Christmas!


  1. Of course, you are glamorizing,
    but that was what advertising was all about.

    It is not about the reality of the culture of the time, it is how they wanted to be perceived.

    I mean come on, even in the fifties, if my dad bought my mom a vacuum for Christmas he would be in the doghouse for a week.

    These are great ads.
    Thanks for the post.

  2. Wow. I don't even watch Mad Men, and it's weird how familiar these ads are...

    Oh, crap! I'm almost 50! How the hell did that happen?

  3. Agree w/ Lacey -- excellent choices.


  4. Things have gotten so PC that I would trade that for all the isms that existed then.

  5. I have never seen Mad Men, but I appreciate these ads nonetheless. Just the straight-forwardness of them is amazing. The ad with the kids buying their dad a Zippo lighter is priceless. We would never see an ad like that today as we are to scared to offend anyone. We have become a generation of total wimps.

  6. What I'm always astounded with in these ads and others from the era is the sheer amount of WORDS they have! You didn't necessarily have to read them if the illustration and logo were strong, but they also didn't think you were an idiot with the attention span of a gnat who would specifically not buy a product if you made them read something that took more than two seconds. Amazing!

  7. I wonder what it was that caused some ads to be full of so many words. Today the only ads with more than a dozen words are the drug ads with a full 2 pages of warnings. Just look how much reading there was to do about a simple water heater back in 1948. I love the ads that guys scans, but GOD is his huge ass watermark stupid and annoying, often obliterating important parts of the ad!