I started paging through the bound collection of 1950 House Beautiful magazines that I have lying around here and I started noticing the striking difference — and amazing sameness — of the ads that appear in the magazines then and now. I happened to have some new issues in my massive “someday-I’ll-get-the-chance-to-read-these” pile and I started to contrast what the two years’ issues reveal about us as a society.
Some things never change. Cars will always be the full-page eye candy of the magazines. Although our ads today tend to emphasize more environmentally-friendly features, there are still some common threads. We still want Cadillacs to reveal that yes, we are just a tad bit more successful than the average Joe ….
And we still expect our Toyotas to have a little more zip. (Yes, I know Toyotas didn’t exist in 1950. Play along, will you?)
We still want faucets, toilets, bathtubs, and showers to convey that we have great taste:
But in 1950, even having good choice in a toilet seat alone was a priority. (When’s the last time you’ve seen an ad for toilet seats?)
Beauty and staying young was important to women in 1950. They even took a risk and invested in rather scary contraptions like this all in the name of youth:
Today, rather than having these little ads make up the tiny little ads in the back of the magazine, we get to see full-page ads of Botox-injected, plastic-surgery laden, professionally hairstyled celebrities pretend like they actually use these products to look the way they do.
Call me jaded if you will, but I’m pretty certain Courtney Cox’s hair has never been drenched with any Pantene product. Just a hunch.
In House Beautiful, paint ads in 1950 were full-page and usually in color:
Some things never change:
In 1950, people seemed to be on a constant quest for the perfect, most comfortable mattress. These ads usually were full-page as well:
Our aching backs were definitely an issue back in the day. We wanted something orthopedic … something that would make us sleep like a baby … yet something that was stylish. Behold, 2013:
I made this one larger so you could see the text: “made from certified natural materials.” There’s that environmentalism again.
In 1950, Liz Taylor graced the back cover of the magazine, touting the luxurious carpet that Gulistan had to offer:
And now? AllState Insurance graces the back cover, presumably trying to convince you that once your house is House Beautiful, you need to sign up with them to protect all that beauty.
Here are a couple ads that you just don’t see anymore in modern magazines:
I swear I’m not trying to be repetitive, because I know I’ve pointed out before how you just don’t see ads for candles in modern magazines, but I guess I was struck by how many candle ads I saw in the 1950 issues. Today? Zero. Back in 1950, we could also get away with copious ads for:
What would Mad Men be without the liquor? Today it seems that liquor ads are becoming more frowned-upon. I figure in a few years the liquor companies will suffer the same scorn as the tobacco industry and ads for booze will not exist.
There were a few ads in the 2013 issues of House Beautiful that you just didn’t see in 1950 and definitely reflect our changing values, especially in where our money goes. Behold the annoying, multi-page ads for the latest prescription drugs:
Two pages of ad space for this drug? Show me the money!
While Americans certainly had debt in 1950, it wasn’t as easy to get into debt as whipping out a little plastic card and sliding it through a machine in the name of keeping up with the Joneses.
The text for this ad is interesting: no late fees, no penalty rates, because there are plenty of other things to stress over.
Yeah — how about the DEBT that people are incurring on their credit cards for crap they don’t need? That’s probably the most stressful thing of all. Now go sit in a corner, Citibank, and count your millions.
Lastly, while many people had pets in 1950 and most certainly loved them as much as we do ours today, we definitely show them love them with food a lot more than we used to. In 1950 there were virtually no ads for pet food, kitty litter, or anything else. Now? They’ve got the bucks to take out those full-page ads:
Oh, and friend them on Facebook. It’s how we roll in 2013.