Vintage Ads: The Evolution of Advertising Since the 1960s
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Vintage Ads: How Far Advertising Has Come Since the 1960s

Meeting rooms clouded with smoke, glasses filled with whiskey, and a well-dressed Don Draper might be just some of the images that come to mind when someone mentions advertising in the 1960s. Although these ‘fun’ parts may have not changed as much, advertising has certainly had. After all, as with most industries, both marketing and advertising are always evolving. This is because fads pass, political and social climates shift, and customers’ interests change. And vintage ads are a window into those changes.

Sixty years ago, a few experts could predict that the advertising landscape would not rely as much on text-based images and cold calling. Today, people are more likely to turn a blind eye to image advertising. Not only that, but also receiving cold-calls makes them lose trust in a brand. But what’s a way into the consumer’s heart now? Videos.

Indeed, 78% of people around the world watch this medium every week. We can liken this fascination we have with videos to that people had with television when it first appeared. Almost 80 years ago, families sat in their living rooms in anticipation of the first-ever television ad. The commercial only lasted for ten seconds, but it was groundbreaking enough, showing what kind of potential advertising had.

Fast-forward to the 1960s, advertising agencies sprung, looking to help business reach a wider audience. And in this article, we take a look at the methods vintage ads used to vie for consumers’ attention way back.

Vintage Ads: Gender

Although some would say that women are still objectified in modern ads, feminism and political correctness are certainly putting a stop to this. Nowadays, brands can lose customers in the blink of an eye if their ads marginalize any group. However, 60 years ago, advertisers could get away with almost anything, especially with their portrayal of women.

In other words, vintage ads displayed blatant sexism in the 1960s. Here, women took second place to men and were usually depicted as inferiors who didn’t have a lot of say in any matter. For instance, one ad presented a woman as a doormat. Why advertisers opted for this photo to promote new Mr. Leggs slacks is beyond us.

Another ad expressed a woman’s inability to open a bottle of ketchup. To make matters even worse, the ad read that women could open it without husbands, giving instructions on how to pull this off. From this perspective, we can’t help but wonder how brands managed to sell their products and services at all.

But, men were usually the sole breadwinners back then, so it’s no wonder that most ads were aimed at them. During this period, women earned around $8,000 per year compared to $45,097 in 2018. Also, they earned 60 cents for every dollar a man made in the 1960s. Therefore, it’s easier now to understand who the target audience was back then.

Today, 60% of women work in agencies, which could explain the shift in how this gender is portrayed in ads. Women also hold higher positions now, but the gender pay gap is still prevalent. However, modern companies are indeed embracing women empowerment as seen by many campaigns, including Nike’s Dream Crazier campaign.

In the end, vintage ads are an index of the set values from the 1960s.

Vintage Ads: Authenticity

One of the things that consumers value the most is brand authenticity. Today, only 52% of customers trust businesses. As a result, brands go above and beyond to come across as real and human.

To be authentic, people also need to perceive companies as reliable and respectful. In that respect, not much has changed. Namely, even 60 years ago people were after authenticity. But, the advertisers made certain mistakes while trying to build it during this period.

Believe it or not, a popular tactic for cigarette brands was to add a doctor’s endorsement to an ad. In doing this, they falsely represented all health risks that came with smoking. Brands would lose trust because they portrayed actors as doctors. Of course, rarely anyone bought this message. This was a lesson learned for advertising and, over the years, this false authenticity in vintage ads has been replaced with real authenticity.

In 2020, authenticity has become key to effective advertising. Letting customers promote your brand and review your products is, by far, the most authentic way to reach consumers all over the world. Apart from this, companies have started to rely on user-generated content.

What’s more, this content can take many forms, depending on products, demographics, and your ultimate goals. One example of user-generated content would be Coca-Cola’s personalized bottles. They were a hit when they first emerged because consumers felt these bottles were directed at them, bringing them closer to Coca-Cola.

The gist is: be it today or 60 years ago, people want a transparent connection to the companies they love.

Vintage Ads: Spokespeople

Even in the 1960s, advertisers knew how important it was to have a spokesperson that would become linked to a brand. So, many companies started introducing their own spokespeople to attract more consumers. This period saw the birth of some of the most well-known spokespeople.

Specifically, McDonald’s introduced Ronald McDonald in three commercials. Also, Red and Yellow M&M’s characters made their first appearance in the 1960s. Even the Pillsbury Company created its own mascot — the Pillsbury Doughboy. All of them are now synonymous with their respective brands, proving that these advertising tactics were effective.

Nowadays, we have a different type of spokespeople that promote businesses. We’re talking about influencers. Of course, it’s difficult to predict whether influences will be as iconic as Red and Yellow in the long-run. Nevertheless, consumers love to hear what influencers have to say and are likely to listen to them. In fact, almost 50% of customers search for videos before visiting a store. And if you have a popular influencer talking about your products or services, you can expect great results.

You can go with the person who is respected in a given industry and ask them for an authentic promotion. With an influencer marketing strategy, you might end up making $6.50 for every $1 you spend. Thus, while advertising characters used to work in the 1960s, today it would be better to invest in influencer marketing.


It’s undeniable — we have come a long way in the past 60 years. The world of advertising today isn’t like the one depicted in Mad Men which, in a sense, is comforting. In fact, we can say that the industry has evolved and became attuned to social and political changes.

From sexist ads that pervaded the advertising landscape of the 1960s to iconic characters, marketers have learned a lot. Now they know how important it is to empower consumers with their stories. That only helps them increase their credibility and build brand awareness.

If you’ve acknowledged the importance of this as well, we’d like to remind you that videos can help you grow. This medium can bring you closer to your target audience and spread your message clearly. Once you tap into video marketing, we at Brid.TV will be there to help you every step of the way.