The M Dash

25 Vintage Ads We Can’t Believe They Got Away With

Filed in: Your Brain

Say all you want about the evils of modern advertising—it still pales in comparison to some of the appalling marketing messaging of the past. Although the ’50s have gotten the Hollywood treatment of late and we look back at the Mad Men era with a mix of nostalgia and amusement, it couldn’t possibly have been a pleasant time to be a woman. If these vintage ads are anything to go by, the men were out swilling Old Fashioneds while their wives were at home dusting and dousing themselves with bizarre man-pleasing hygienic products. Sounds like a good time…

And in thinking about the way women were once marketed to, I wonder: Could a company like MM.LaFleur even have existed in the ’50s? Given that our mission hinges on empowering women and crafting messages that are honest, transparent, and thought-provoking, it’s tough to imagine where we would have fit into a commercial landscape that reduced women to paranoid housewives, hysterical nags, flighty secretaries, and glorified domestic servants.

The following ads range from creepy (“Go up to a girl and whisper Yo-Ho-Ho”) to pathological (“Is it always illegal to kill a woman?”). Brace yourselves:

And just for good measure, a nice Lucky Strike add to kick off the holiday season:


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Tory Hoen is the editor-in-chief at MM.LaFleur and the founding editor of The M Dash. She has written for New York Magazine, Bon Appétit, Condé Nast Traveler, and Time Out New York. Current home base: Brooklyn. Current spirit animal: serval. Read more of Tory's posts.


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