Advertising takes a lot of heat as a whipping boy for cultural and businesses excesses and foibles.  But is advertising really to blame?

Because advertising makes things public, we often take the punches.  And when people look at yesterday’s advertising – like on Mad Men or the ads posted here, sometimes the mores of old look pretty ridiculous when viewed through the filter of today’s attitudes.

I have often told people that advertising cannot get anyone to do things that they would not actually want to do.  We are not insidious and mind altering.  We just reflect and do a job persuading folks to a more positive attitude about our clients.

We may lead opinions; we may influence opinions; we may even create the debate.  But at the end of the day we are only creating and communicating on behalf of our clients and it is the customer who decides and votes with their dollars or attitudes.

Here are a few ads from the middle of the last century.  They look hilarious today.

I especially like a couple things that really look odd – like the wife getting a spanking and still wearing her high heal pumps.  Neither the idea of spanking or of striking a wife are acceptable today, but the high heels just seem so oddly out of context.  Did women really wear high heels while doing the cooking?

Do Doctors feel ashamed that their used to recommend cigarettes the way people think advertising agencies should be ashamed of old work based on the knowledge of the day?

And a lot of today’s advertising will look equally ridiculous in forty or fifty years.  Although it is virtually impossible for us to determine which these are because who knows which way cultural mores will head. Or will a word meaning shift to make a phrase from today look weird tomorrow – like the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ movie “The Gay Divorcee”?

Sure we all have opinions, but opinions are just uninformed judgments.  Or as the old saying goes, “..and everybody has one.”

For example, there have been a lot of “dad is a dummy” kind of commercials of late.  Will these be laughable and sexist in the future and held up to ridicule?  Like the Doctors recommending smoking.  Or weaning babies to Coca-Cola?

Advertising only reflects the attitudes of the day but long after the attitudes change the advertising is there to remind us and often to take the heat.

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