Subtle. A word meaning: not immediately obvious or comprehensible. Delicate or precise; in more modern terms I might add not in your face. And when it comes to advertisements, I think that’s a great thing. And such an opinion immediately lands me in the column old-fashioned or immediately accentuates my boomer status. But I’m at the point where I really don’t care.
And even though I’m an RN, I still wouldn’t want to be in a room with my grandchildren when Cialis is warning about an erection that could last over four hours. Cause can’t you hear the grandchildren asking: “What’s an erection?” And perfume: some of the commercials that come out around Christmas are so over-the-top, not to mention Victoria Secret who has no secrets. But more on that later.
CHARLIE by REVLON
So I took a walk down memory lane and found some more subtle examples of selling a product when it’s not in your face—but the message is clear. I have a fond memory of this Revlon commercial: a couple walking through the city and because she wears Charlie, she is confident to casually caress her partner’s derriere. The Charlie campaign used lots of similar images to convey a sexuality that was confident and chic, but no clothing was removed. The TV add featuring Shelley Hack and Bobby Short had a catchy tune–a winner, it sold lots of perfume.
AH, THE KOTEX MYSTERY
In my preteen years, I was curious about an ad campaign that usually found its way into a side column in LIFE MAGAZINE. The drawings were colorful and I would study them and then read the text, at first unable to discover what the advertisement was selling. When my mother did convey this womanly secret, a lightbulb went on. Today, with images of tampons and pads, it feels like a video demonstration of how to use feminine hygiene products is just around the corner.
BRAS: HOW TO HANDLE?
And what about the bra commercials? They worked, but only on a mannequin. As Emily Singer wrote on Huff Post: Promoting long-lasting comfort, the bra commercials of yore sold a product that was meant to stay on, as opposed to be taken off.
So it was this: Jane Russell and THE BRA:
Now advancing to this, which is actually a much calmer image than some.
As I wrote in my piece How Shopping For Lingerie Helped Me Accept My Mid-life Body: Don’t even try being innocent in these bras—immediately you’re a tigress. To push the fantasy, the models’ photos were air-brushed into perfection revealing completely bared buttocks in thongs and facial expressions that looked pre-, post- or in medias res orgasm. Now that’s some lingerie! The time-line had crashed over the edge of the flow chart.
KISSING and OTHER ACTS OF LOVE
I remember in the early sixties, opening up a two-page spread that was also advertising perfume or maybe men’s cologne. The woman’s head and the man’s head filled the pages and they were kissing, but their mouths were slightly open. This was a first for me. But it was lovely, very well done. I can’t find that photo, but the one below is in that sixties vein. English Leather was the scent. If updated, the ad might have shown the man without the turtle neck, or both of them naked. In a 1988 ad for the Musk English leather, the man is naked and the woman wearing a teddy. The slogan: the unfair advantage.
I think ad men like the character, Don Draper, began to decide that everything and anything was fair in love and advertising. Though now and again we do see a return to more subtle forms. But then it depends on the publication or venue–the magazine, newspaper, television or cable station–and the audience, the age group. So there are lots of variations.
NEWS AT FIVE? AND GERITOL
In the seventies the five o’clock news always had a Geritol commercial–a multi-vitamin preparation which was advertised in liquid form–easier for those in their Barcaloungers to get the stuff down. Now it’s Cialis. But maybe that’s progress! What do you think?
Thanks for taking this partial walk down the memory lane of advertising. And if you have any old favorites that are subtle or sunny or you can’t forget them–please share. Through the years, Hallmark commercials were never subtle about what they wanted to convey–friendship, family, love. As my husband always says, I cry easily when seeing Hallmark commercials, so that makes me ???? a boomer, a mother, a grandmother. Yes! something I confess proudly.
Images: Thanks to Revlon; Buzz Feed: 9 Glamorous Kotex Ads from the 1950s. Victoria Secret. Flicker: English Leather Image. Thanks to You Tube.