Cigarettes are like women. The best ones are thin and rich.
—Silva Thins ad circa 1970
This line, from one of the most memorable ad campaigns, exemplifies the cultural psyche after the end of WWII and into the late 1960s, as many ads of this time connected their products with excess.
….And it was a heady time!
Coming out of an era where war and depression were a part of the scene, Americans had a lot to celebrate. The economy was on the upturn, and through modern technology, the quality of life improved as well.
Through modern invention and the television, historical events were put on display for the entire world to view. More importantly, like the decade preceding the Depression, materialism and excess defined this era.
But first, some perspective….
When you think about this time from a historical perspective, it is easy to focus on the major events that shaped American thought, events like the McCarthy era and the Civil Rights’ Movement.
The sentiment of the fifties regarding communism and the McCarthy hearings are very apparent in the cola ads, which focused on all the trappings of a materialistic life, good food, nice digs and great friends. Additionally, the cigarette campaigns of the sixties again reflected this revolutionary era, as many of the ads focused on women being strong, beautiful, and in control of their world.
As people thought more about their society and as they became more sophisticated, the relationship that corporations had with the public reflected this new awareness. Some of the most famous ad campaigns of this time conveyed a society in the midst of a transformation they were not aware of.
Everyone went crazy for soda pop after some of the most popular brands linked the product to American daily existence.
When people chose Pepsi….
Pepsi ran a successful ad during the mid-fifties that connected drinking Pepsi Cola with having an active, thriving social life. More importantly, the ads, called “The Sociables,” showed people in various social settings wearing the most current fashion, relaxing on contemporary furniture. Additionally, “So Young, So Fair, So Debonair” and “The Sociables Prefer Pepsi” ads featured young, attractive men and women engaging with each other almost inviting the audience to join them.
Coke focused much of its advertisements on appreciating the product and the value of the product. Ads such as “Refreshment…Real Refreshment” and “It couldn’t be better” placed emphasis on the enjoyment of the product by featuring young people socially engaged with each other but focusing their pleasure on drinking Coke.
7Up used its “Nothing Does It Like 7Up” campaign to sell the beverage to mothers with infants. Selling soda to babies, can you believe that? With images of babies drinking the beverage, consumers bought into the idea of giving babies soda, even adding it to their milk. As a part of another ad campaign, the 7Up also introduced an ice cream float that featured the drink.
Soda pop, and the ads that sold them, became a fixture on the fifties and sixties scene. However, cigarette ads during these decades also played a central role in American culture. While deemed unhealthy today, cigarette companies campaigned the public successfully to the point they epitomized fifties/sixties cool.
As health concerns regarding cigarette smoke came to the forefront of society, filtered cigarettes offered smokers an alternative to traditional ones.
Cigarette coupons, for instance….
To gain the competitive advantage over the giant Imperial Tobacco, Wix introduced cigarette coupons with their Kensitas brand in the fifties. These coupons could be exchanged for gifts. Much later, in the sixties, Embassy sold cigarettes that also came with coupons.
Smokes to fit your style or class….
For many of the tobacco companies, style was a big part of the advertisements. Embassy, for one, geared its product toward the middle class. Offered with or without the filter, Embassies became the number one seller in Britain.
Then, there was the Player’s 6 of the 1960s. Targeted to both sexes, the brand found a following with working class women. Finally, Silva Thins appealed to men who wanted to be cool and women who wanted to be thin and beautiful.
Cigarettes were very ingrained in American culture, as seen by the number of times they appear on screen or in ads.
As you can see….
Americans, as a whole, lived a charmed existence during the fifties and sixties, even in the midst of a revolution that brought upheaval to the foundations of its social structure. While only cola and cigarette ads, these companies captured the public’s attention by connecting contemporary life to these products.
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