Advertising the Seventies

We recently came across a pile of old magazines from the time when disco music polluted the airwaves, men grew bad mustaches, and cars were built to break down as soon as they got paid off. Yes, we're talking the early 1970s. Looking at the advertising from this bygone era illuminates and contrasts how tastes and preferences of society change over time. Take, for example, this ad for Salem cigarettes, where a fish jumps as a fisherman paddles his canoe while choking down a cancer stick. Springtime! It happens every Salem. The small print reads Natural menthol. That's what gives Salem a taste as soft and fresh as Springtime. So smoking a Salem cigarette equates to the joy a fresh spring day. Quite the leap, eh?!

Here's a real deal: join the Stereo Tape Club of America and you'll get a free 8 track stereomatic player, speakers not included! The only stipulation is you'll need to purchase at least six cassettes now and one a month for the next year. With selections like Now I am Woman, The Best of Wilson Pickett, and Led Zeppelin III, how could anyone refuse such an offer!

Thirty years ago, dull sounding 8 tracks were the tip of the spear when it came to audio technology. No doubt few people, if any, envisioned a day when 10,000 songs could be played from a device the size of a business card holder. No doubt we have no comprehension what the technology will be in 2038.

For whatever reason, in the 1970's, nearly all cigarette ads were in color. And nearly all other products were displayed in black and white. Not sure why... were profit margins for the tobacco companies prior to the billion dollar settlements of the 1990's large enough to pay for color advertising when no one else could? Or is the message a subliminal one: you know, smoking makes the world a more colorful place? We dunno.

Notice the shift in marketing from the lone canoeist crossing a placid lake in the Salem ad. Instead, we see a nicely dressed couple wearing glasses enjoying a Viceroy as they read a passage from a musty tome. Browsing through a bookstall. Peeking in the past. Maybe they'll even find a signed Ernest Hemingway. Their cigarette? Viceroy. They won't settle for less. It's a matter of taste. The target group must be the literate intellectuals, or people who think they're literate intellectuals: smoke Viceroy, and people will think yer smart.

The Hot Comb from Remington. Now this is a product you don't see anymore, thank goodness. The small print reads You probably didn't realize it. At least not all at once. But life for men was changing. Ties were getting wider, waists were getting narrower, and hair was getting longer. The trouble was, that along with more hair you got something you didn't need or want: more problems. The Hot Comb is Remington's answer for more hair. What it does is dry your hair. And while it's doing that it does a lot of other things. Like shape it. And take out the lumps, the wings, and the cowlicks. It can even make dumb waves disappear, or make idiot curls go straight.

Wow. The Hot Comb is one heavy duty man primping tool. We hope the day never comes where we own one. Unfortunately, the indicators of long hair returning to vogue are beginning to show: the neighbor kid who shovels our driveway has a mop that resembles Leif Garrett, circa 1978. At the local mall last weekend, we noticed several high schoolers with long manes of hair wapped in thin bandanas at the forehead, looking like characters from a Freak Brothers comic book. Fads are cyclical, yes indeed. We just wish styled manhair stayed buried in the past forever.

Postscript: after posting, we noticed the model for the Hot Comb looked familiar. Click on the ad and see if you can guess who's pitching this fashion tool. Clue: he's played a young Godfather, a Deer Hunter, and a Raging Bull.

Here's another cigarette ad (having a tobacco account must've been the career goal of every 5th Avenue sales rep). The party's over and they've all gone home and at last it's quiet and no more people thank goodness and... This... is the L&M moment. Holy smokes! Is the tension ever palpable in that run-on sentence. The implied message: entertaining friends is hard work. Hosting a party is stressful. Let L&M ease your world after a long night of serving h'or derves and martinis. You deserve it, you exhausted party hostess you.

This is an advertisement we'd like to see again: a $1,990 car. Loaded too: no extra costs for all-vinyl, foam padded bucket seats, nylon carpeting, and two-speed windshield wipers on this Datsun. Looking through the stack of old magazines, one thing we noticed is cars were cheap and electronic gadgets were expensive. Reel to reel tape recorders and 35mm cameras cost $1,000 but $2,000 got you a new car. Today, we have the inverse: economy cars go for $20,000 and 10 megapixel cameras and Ipods cost under $200. It's not right.

Now here's a blast from the past: a listing of restaurants in metro Detroit, circa 1971. Only two jumped out at us as still operating: The St. Clair Inn is a nice place and Porter Street Station continues to eke out a enough of a profit to stay open in post-Tiger Stadium Corktown. We remember Ciungan's Shrimp House in Ecorse, a throwback to the steel era when the titans of industry ruled Downriver from dark rooms with cigar drenched carpeted walls like Ciungan's and Sibley Gardens. And the Top of the Pontch was the place to go to impress a first date in high school. Ah, the memories.

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