Ho-Ho-Horribly Inappropriate Vintage Christmas Advert Round Up

Christmas adverts these days are clean cut, family friendly and festive - but that wasn't always the case!

December 13, 2018

The most exciting thing about marketing is that it constantly changes. What makes people fall in love with a brand today, might be terribly inappropriate in ten years time, so we as marketers need to constantly evolve and reinvent ourselves.

Christmas is near so we decided to look back and remember what marketing used to be like a few decades ago. Here is a small list of some ho-ho-horribly inappropriate vintage Christmas ads you definitely wouldn’t see around today!

smoking santa
Image Source: Laughshop.com Image Source: BBC
The Smoking Santa

Did you know Santa was a smoker? I didn’t but I guess kids back in the ’40s made sure they left some cigarettes out for him together with milk and cookies?

Maybe the rhymes back then went something like this:

I baked a dozen cookies,

I put them on a plate

I also got an ashtray

And a cigarette

Although by the look of it, Santa Claus wasn’t really loyal to his brand, as he kept smoking all sorts of branded cigarettes.

Can you imagine an ad like this popping up between John Lewis & Partners and Kevin the Carrot?

smoking santa 1
Image Source: LiterayMan Image Source: PeriodPaper.com

Some adverts on the other hand, didn’t have Santa Smoking, but they did have a successful-looking white male sending cigarets to all his friends because apparently, this is how you showed people you cared in the ‘50s!

Christmas cigarrette adverts
Image Source: Collectors Weekly Image Source: UltraSwank

Please, remember that smoking is extremely damaging to your health and can lead to a number of health issues including cancer. Good thing we have more regulations in 2018.

I would love to move onto ads for something a little less dangerous, but I can’t yet - This time its firearms! Because Christmas is the time when the whole family gets together and cleans their rifles, right?

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but just like tobacco guns can also be extremely damaging to your health.

vintage christmas ad
Image Source: American Shooting Journal
Image Source: Esty, Image Source: American Shooting Journal, Image Source: Livejournal.com

And then there is good old sexism, the objectification of women and reminding them that all they need is a good hoover, some new cooking equipment and a husband that can afford it all.

But we mustn’t forget they must look nice and flirty while hoovering because that’s what the perfect 50’s housewife is about!

Image Source: Mascola.com, Image Source: The Visual Past, Image Source: Redit

As brands get an advanced understanding of social responsibility, the advertising standards change and people become more sensitive about what they are sold.

Modern advertising standards encourage and direct brands not to push damaging gender or other stereotypes and dangerous substances and objects are simply banned, but nevertheless, there are a lot of outrageous ads out there today. The main difference is that not they are at least considered inappropriate, but back at the beginning of the 20th century, during the so-called Golden Age Of Advertising, men from Maddison avenue had no idea of any of it being inappropriate.

In the early days of advertising, it wasn’t only what was on the banner, brands would often claim most outrageous claims.  Camel had a whole campaign about Doctor’s promoting their brand over others, pregnant women were encouraged to smoke and new mothers could give their babies coca-cola! This was all advertised and encourages in magazines and billboards.

As modern people, we think it is ridiculous that anyone would believe those claims, but people believe what they are told and if they are told it repeatedly they believe it more.

We now live in a heavily advertised world. It is everywhere - our phones, our email, social media. And there are cookies! Cookies that make it possible to trace us all around the internet and keep nagging until you buy those discount slippers you accidentally looked at on Amazon. So thanks got there is at least some control over what we are offered this Christmas and we are not buying our babies cigarettes, guns and coffee.

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