20 April 2012

Think *Today's* Ads Go Too Far?

Easy to imagine that anything goes in ads today.  Sex.  Language.  Innuendo.  During my career, ads have broken the "damn" and "hell" barriers.  The belch barrier.  The fart barrier.  Radio spots portray orgasms.  North American TV may soon break the dreaded nipple barrier.  

But no, Virginia- in ads today, 'anything' does *not* go.  Witness the wealth of retro ads that would never, ever run today.

Nossir.  Pardon my chronological snobbery, but we're outgrowing racism. Also disappearing, albeit slowly, are traditional strains of misogyny-

Part of the many brilliant touches within Mad Men, especially the first episodes, was its cultural anachronisms-  pregnant women smoking and drinking; adults striking other people's kids.  In an early scene, the Drapers' young daughter is playing 'space alien'- with a plastic drycleaners' bag over her head.  Her mother scolds her- not because of the suffocation risk- but for dumping out the newly-cleaned clothes.  Ads become time capsules for the attitudes of their time.

Ads + time become social artifacts, reminding us of just how much our attitudes and behaviors shift.

Truly- what woman doesn't live to have cigar smoke blown in her face?

Some retro ads are outrageous.  Some-

-are downright chilling.

It becomes an interesting exercise to imagine which of today's ads will be considered equally outrageous- and anachronistic- a generation from now.

For the time being, though, let's celebrate the progress we've made.  After all, we've come a long way...

Virginia Slims: You\'ve Come a Long Way Baby!
Spike Full EpisodesSpike Video ClipsSpike on Facebook


1 comment:

  1. Thanks Mike. Ads with anorexic models might be candidates for ones that will be considered outrageous in days to come. But I'm sure there will be those we would never consider offensive now.