Unless you’re old enough to remember the films I’m about to talk about, it’s likely that the advertising campaigns of years gone by will be both alien and oddly familiar in equal doses. Products that are no longer sold, no longer needed, or no longer allowed to be advertised all feature in this collection which is hosted by the Internet Archive.
Also present are techniques that are still being used today, special effects that do not rely on computers and a couple of familiar brands that have grown into multinational corporations. This collection features a good amount of 1940s, 50s and 60s advertising materials which provides a valuable snapshot of mass media and life in the USA at the time.
Here’s something you don’t see any more (well, not in the US, Europe, Australia, and anywhere else that’s sensitive about tobacco advertising) – an all-singing, all-dancing cigarette advert. The film in question is from 1948 and employs stop-motion to create what can only be described as an animated masterpiece.
Maybe it’s the combination of the iconic Lucky Strike brand that makes this special, or maybe it’s the flawless animation that these days would be made using software instead of painstaking stop-motion. Either way, this is a classic that must be seen!
Note: Smoking is bad for you, so you probably shouldn’t do it.
Featuring some of the cheesiest marketing muzak you’ve ever heard, A Wonderful New World of Fords was a TV spot from 1960 that introduces three new models of car to the US consumer. The advert is presented in a typical American 1960s style, taking cues directly from the ongoing space race.
This advert helps remind us of two things: the 1960 Ford Thunderbird was a stunner and they simply don’t make adverts like this any more, especially where cars are concerned. You can be the judge on whether that’s a good thing or not.
Unlike the above Ford advert, which is aimed at older audiences with disposable income, this joint effort from Cheerios and V-8 (the juice) is aimed directly at children. I’ve included it here as it’s another example of the impact made by the space race on popular culture at the time.
Beginning with a shot of a US rocket blasting off, the advert goes on to offer a free space-themed game with one coupon from each product. As we all know by now, this trend eventually turned out to be a favorable technique for selling to younger audiences in the future.
If anyone has ever had the chance to play with one of these sets then please comment below, but it strikes me as one of those products that never quite worked as advertised. Featuring a figure 8 circuit, a jump (which switches each car’s position too – really?) and a ton of “sold separately” extras it’s Gilbert’s finest Slot Racers.
The jump looks precarious, though the lap counter, flag guy and timer are all nice touches. Do kids still play with toys like this?
There are a ton of classic 40s, 50s and 60s adverts featured on the following reels. If you’ve found the article interesting up until now then you’ve just hit the jackpot with the following collections:
Would you buy cereal from the two individuals featured in the first commercial? Would an advert convert you to Marlboro cigarettes? This film documents 25 minutes worth of glorious 1950s retro commercials!
Classic Television Commercials (1948 onwards)
Last but certainly not least is this mammoth collection of adverts, many of which predate 1950. There are in total eight parts to this collection, with separate links to each reel found below this section (the video featured here is the first in the series).
The commercials in these films are considered “significant to the history and development of TV as an advertising medium” by the Internet Archive – and they’re also pretty good fun to watch.
Regardless of whether you love or hate television advertising, it’s impossible to ignore the large role it has played over the last 60 or so years. The films featured here tell a story of an emerging medium, major industrial growth and provide important social and economic commentary for those with their academic hats on.
Do you have any favorites here? Any classics you remember as a child? Share and discuss below.