US Data Corporation Direct Marketing Blog

Five Strange Vintage Marketing Advertisements7:00 am

By Kristen Dabrio

Five Strange Vintage Marketing Advertisements Whenever we hear about the golden age of advertising, a romanticized image of Mad Men and Don Draper often comes to mind. Just like today, marketers back then were hard at work attempting to shape attitudes and behaviors of potential buyers—and they were good at it. Developing advertisements to sell products requires intelligence and creativity. However, reviewing these ads from the past might make you wonder how such bizarre material was ever deemed acceptable. At the very least, these vintage advertisements reveal just how much our society has changed in a mere matter of decades.  Although there are plenty of weird and offensive advertisements today, these might still make you raise an eyebrow. Here are five strange vintage marketing campaigns that will make you glad some things have changed.

Cockroach Racing

Five Strange Vintage Marketing Advertisements

International Mutoscope Reel Company decided cockroach racing would be a good idea sometime in the 1940’s. Since most people are repulsed by the idea of playing with insects regularly associated with filth, it is perhaps not surprising that this idea did not go over too well with the general public; in fact, the company went bankrupt in 1949. This shining example of vintage marketing shows a group of young women having fun watching cockroaches run around, which should not only make you question their sanity, but also the sanity of whoever designed this ad. Luckily, cockroach racing is now (hopefully) a thing of the past. (1)

7-UP Baby

Five Strange Vintage Marketing Advertisements

In 1955, 7-Up came out with this ad depicting an 11-month-old baby drinking soda right from the bottle.  In the ad copy, 7-up claims that mixing milk with their product will help with fussy babies, even suggesting that it’s somehow healthy for them. Stating that 7-Up is fine for a baby to consume is just straight-up dangerous and irresponsible. There are so many things wrong with this example of vintage marketing, it’s hard to know where to begin. But, hey, maybe don’t let your newborn drink soda! Good thing the advertising industry has moved past these dangerous vintage marketing tactics and become a bit more concerned with the health of infants. (2)

Cocaine Toothache Drops

Five Strange Vintage Marketing Advertisements

This ad is older than the rest, dating from the late 1800’s, but you can be sure that this product would never fly today. For fifteen cents, you could load up your system with cocaine, morphine, and alcohol—all to cure a toothache! And let’s not forget that the main consumers of these toothache drops, if the ad’s illustration is any indication, are – you guessed it – children! Most of us know how terrible a toothache can be, but this treatment plan might be a tad excessive.  Obviously, times have changed and we no longer allow the sale of cocaine, so you’d never see something like this on the shelves of your local pharmacy today. (3)

Pitney-Bowes Postage Meter

Five Strange Vintage Marketing Advertisements

It should be no surprise that vintage ads were often quite sexist, considering they were designed in the context of an extremely sexist society, but this ad is off the charts. The ad insinuates that women are too dumb to function in an office environment, and even asks the question, “Is it always illegal to kill a woman?”  The strangest thing about this vintage marketing campaign is that it’s promoting a postage meter, which seems completely unrelated to the ad’s content. Advertisements like this were very common in 1953, so while this ad seems pretty blatantly offensive nowadays, this is probably not the worst of them.  Thankfully, it would be rare to see something like this today—especially with that headline. (4)

Beauty Micrometer

Five Strange Vintage Marketing Advertisements

Max Factor is most likely a name you’d recognize in the make-up and beauty world today, but you’ve probably never seen an ad quite like this. A “beauty micrometer” that analyzes your facial flaws sounds terrifying, and most people probably wouldn’t be so happy about having that scary-looking contraption strapped to their head.  The device was used to find flaws that could be reduced through the make-up process, most likely in an attempt to sell more beauty products.  I’m not sure any make-up companies would dare to try this vintage marketing campaign today. (5)

Since these ads are a reflection of how our society used to be, it’s fascinating to see how certain social norms have evolved through vintage marketing. It is a marketer’s job to make you feel positively about their products, but whether or not these strange vintage ads accomplished that goal is still up for debate. Vintage marketing certainly paved the way for modern advertising, but perhaps some industry “innovations” should remain in the past.

If you’re looking for more great examples of vintage marketing, follow US Data Corporation on Pinterest. You’ll be able to find a wide variety of marketing tips and informative articles through our account.

Image Courtesy of







  • MikeDancy

    That was the funniest thing that I’ve read in awhile. I listen to a Marketing Podcast called Under The Influence and it covers a lot of history in marketing. There are some crazy stories about how certain companies came to be and the marketing concepts that they developed.



Sign up for our free mailing list to receive our newsletter, special promotions, and more!

Follow Us

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ RSS Feed

Like Us on Facebook

Learn More About...

Email Marketing

Marketing Strategy

Direct Mail Marketing

Data Cards

Fun Marketing Facts

Mobile Marketing

Social Media

Happy Client Highlight

Work Tips

Recent Posts

5 Tips for Convincing Clients to Try New Marketing Strategies

Is Direct Mail Marketing Still Effective with Millennials?

Email Marketing Relevancy Is More Important Than Ever

5 Black Friday and Cyber Monday Email Marketing Guidelines

Marketing 101: What is Direct Marketing?


April 2017

January 2017

November 2016

October 2016

September 2016

August 2016

July 2016

June 2016

May 2016

April 2016

March 2016

February 2016

January 2016

December 2015

November 2015

October 2015

September 2015

August 2015

July 2015

June 2015

May 2015

April 2015

March 2015

February 2015

January 2015

December 2014

November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

August 2014

July 2014

June 2014

May 2014

April 2014

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014

December 2013

November 2013

October 2013

September 2013

August 2013

July 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012

June 2012

May 2012

April 2012

March 2012

February 2012

January 2012

December 2011

November 2011

October 2011

September 2011

August 2011

July 2011

June 2011