Turntables, Dress Slacks and Soft Drinks: Advertising in 1965

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This Homecoming Week, we’re taking a look back 50 years ago, to the year 1965. Digging through newspaper archives, there are plenty of interesting insights into 1960s culture and society, not only through the articles, but also through the advertisements.

DSCN0540One of the most surprising advertisements was this one for gas: 23.9 cents per gallon. So when your grandpa said he used to buy a gallon of gas for a quarter, and you thought he was full of crap, it turns out he was actually right.

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Likewise, there’s an ad for Dee’s Drive-In, where you could buy a hamburger for just 13 cents. In other words, you could almost buy two burgers for the price of a gallon of gas. So if the inflation of gas and burgers were equivalent, you would be able to get a burger for about a dollar-fifty these days, which I guess you can on the McDonald’s dollar menu. Does anyone know if a 13-cent burger from Dee’s is better than a dollar menu burger from McDonald’s today?

After seeing these ads, it came as a little bit of a surprise to see this ad for record player systems, which were selling between 200 and 400 dollars. After doing a quick Google search, most turntables today lie in that same price range. But obviously, 400 dollars was a lot more in 1965 than it is today. Based on the ads for hamburgers and gasoline, 400 dollars in 1965 could buy you a record player, or it could buy you over 3,000 hamburgers or 1,666 gallons of gasoline.

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It’s also interesting how these devices are being marketed. They list technical aspects like magnetic cartridge, 50 watt amplifier, or 28 pounds. Most ads today do away with numbers and opt for advertising the product “experience.”

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Flipping through the newspaper archives, it’s evident that the most commonly advertised product is men’s dress slacks. There’s an ad for them on nearly every page, it seems. And they’re all basically identical. There’s a man shot from the waist down, wearing slacks. Then there’s invariably some young woman swooning over him. Many of them include captions like, “With X brand slacks, she won’t be able to resist.” It seems ridiculous, but then again, have you ever seen an Axe commercial?

What about products marketed toward women? That’s when it gets even worse. Take, for example, this ad for a series of classes that aimed to guide women “on the road to popularity, poise, confidence, and success.” How does it plan to do that? By helping them “become a more attractive person by developing [their] natural assets.”

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One element of these advertisements that doesn’t really seem to hold today is the affinity for the jingle. Some are stupid, like this one for a restaurant called “Bimbo’s.” I’m not even sure if it is a jingle so much as a very bland and uncreative couplet. But for a restaurant called “Bimbo’s,” I don’t think we should set the bar very high.

Then there’s this one for Coca-Cola, which does sound very musical and jingle-y. On the other hand, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

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But the king of the jingle is Sprite. Actually, it’s not really a jingle. It’s a full-on fight song. It’s called “Roar, Soft-Drink, Roar!” and Sprite introduced it saying, “We’d like you to sing it while drinking Sprite, though this may cause some choking and coughing. So what? It’s all in good, clean fun.” As bad as the lyrics are, the little cartoon faces singing the song are even worse. The first one looks like the dead guy at the end of “The Ring.” The last guy looks like he’s undergoing a thorough cavity search. And the girl has a freaky vertical mouth.

And this brings us to the best of ’60s advertisements: the inexplicables — the ads that don’t make any sense and often don’t even include the name of the company paying for the ad.

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Like this one: “Does she… or doesn’t she? Only her bartender knows for sure!” That’s it. No other clues besides this woman’s face. Does she or doesn’t she what? And why does her bartender know if she does or doesn’t? I want to know but I don’t even know who to ask because it doesn’t say what the ad is even for!

And how about this panic button ad? It says that every five minutes a child is born. Now, I don’t know anything about birth rate statistics, but it seems like that rate should be a lot higher. Second of all, even if that stat is true, I’m not sure why that would cause someone to push a panic button. And of course, what the hell is this even advertising?

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And finally, this advertisement for free sex ratings: “Find out if you’re man enough.” This one actually does have a name attached to it, and … It’s The Daily Utah Chronicle itself. Readers were directed to fill out their address and send this ad in to the Chrony to either request information or an application. I’m not sure what kind of info about sex ratings the Chrony used to have, and I don’t want to think about what the application was for. If someone from the 1965 staff of the Chronicle is reading this and wants to explain themselves, that’d be great.

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@jusstadams