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What consumers can learn from older advertisements

Advertising can have powerful effects on both consumer decisions and on culture as a whole. As a result, it is important to think critically when viewing and responding to advertisements. Few arguments can speak as effectively to the need for critical analysis of advertisements as advertisements themselves can. In viewing old advertisements, consumers can truly learn how dangerous products make their ways into American homes, businesses and public spaces.

Take for example, two 1954 print advertisements for cellophane. In one photo, an infant is being delivered by a stork. The baby is not wrapped in a blanket or any kind of cloth, but is completely wrapped in cellophane. In another advertisement, three babies are looking out at viewers from behind a pane of cellophane. While one of the babies pokes at the cellophane, another seems to be licking it. Consumers now understand that cellophane presents both choking and suffocating hazards for infants. Yet, advertisers were once so eager to sell the product that they did not think twice about whether it would be safe for babies to be around, let alone for babies to help sell.

Another example of the ways in which advertisers have failed to think critically is a 1942 print ad for a product called “Vitamin Doughnuts.” Because these sugary treats were fortified with at least 25 units of B1 vitamins, they were marketed as healthy. While this may seem like an absurd claim now, is the advertising for Vitamin Doughnuts so different than current advertisements for fortified sugary cereals that are arguably just as unhealthy as doughnuts?

In order to keep you and your loved ones safe, please think critically about the advertisements you are subjected to on a daily basis. The bottom-line of most companies is to make money, not to ensure your wellbeing. By thinking through the purchase of a potentially dangerous product, you may spare yourself and your loved ones from harm.

Source: Collectors Weekly, “What Were We Thinking? The Top 10 Most Dangerous Ads,” Hunter Oatman-Stanford, Aug. 22, 2012