Perhaps nothing illustrates old-school marketing like old cigarette commercials. James Lileks posits that irony as we know it today didn’t exist in the culture of this period. How else would the audience sit still for this kind of earnestness? About cigarettes? Whatever the state of irony in those days, the public attitude about cigarettes was certainly different. People knew smoking was bad for you; why else would it be important for doctors to plug certain brands? Nevertheless, there wasn’t a Surgeon General’s report, or a warning printed on every pack, and there was a lot of opportunity to be in denial.
Let’s not forget – before the advent of relatively cheap, mass-produced cigarettes, lung cancer was practically unknown. I think people inside and outside of marketing kind of stare at this stuff in disbelief because it’s a relatively pure form of badness dressed up by some highly creative, talented minds. In a word, propaganda.
Part Ohio State Patrol propaganda, part ’50’s nostalgia, part blood and guts – the Driver’s Education Film! Surely they’ve retired these by now, but I was shown similar films in 1983 in high school driver’s education. They were pushing 30 years old even then! Note the bad acting on the part of the dispatcher, and the jaunty background music.
(note: possibly not as bad as network TV these days, but not for the squeamish)
Signal 30, Part I
Signal 30, Part II