Tag Archives: retro ads

4th of July Eats!

Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans! We may not agree on much, but we all like party food and drinks!

It’s a hot summer day, what’s better than a heavy ham dinner?

Are…are the cubes around the ham…aspic? Few things in life would make me happier than this 4th of July ham surrounded by aspic fireworks.

I have a serious case of FOMO because I’m not at this party. Sure, it’s a drawing, but it still! Damn it, I want to be a Schlitzer!

Wednesdays are for Vintage Aspics, Self Contemplation and Tim Gunn – Recipe Wednesday

Several folks have asked me to post more retro recipes, especially everyone’s favorite, gelatin molds! Obviously I’m more than happy to oblige! But I find myself wondering, after all these years am I becoming immune to the horrors of the vintage aspic? So, as anytime I have a problem, I look to Project Runway’s Tim Gunn for answers.

Gunn once told a contestant that his design was like living in the monkey house at the zoo. He explained that when you first walk into the monkey house you are overcome with the scent, then after a while in the monkey house, it doesn’t seem so bad. Finally if you were to actually live in the monkey house you wouldn’t think it smells at all.

Sometimes I come across a vintage recipe and think it doesn’t look all that bad…in fact maybe I will try that recipe.  Am I living in the monkey house?

tim gunn concerns

In order to test my gelatin mold tolerance, today I bring you an assortment of god’s creatures that swim, fly and amble all encased in a very very shiny gelatin embrace.

Test 1: “Movie Recipe” Chicken and Vegetable Aspic.

chicken movie aspic
Not so bad. Tomato and cream cheese could be pleasant with the right menu. I am wondering about the movie theme. How on earth were you supposed to sneak a chicken and vegetable gelatin mold in to the theater in your purse like so much clandestine candy?


Test 2. Jelly Beef Mold

jelly beef mold
A little more concerning. Doesn’t seem terrible, just weird. Though this is one of the shiniest mold in my memory.


Test 3: Jelly Tongues

jellied tongue
Yikes! Could it get more retro than jellied tongue? Hard pass.

gunn shocked


Test 4: Mayo and ….Fish…?

mayo fish mold
Shrimp, “fish” made from pimento, herbs, and “cauliflowerettes” you are meant to slice this and slather with “mayo ripples.”  This is one of the most concerning retro ads I’ve seen in a long time. Not only is the recipe just terrible, but it almost has a Damion/ Satanic Panic vibe about it in it’s ominous imagery. Furthermore, that is some hard line sloganing there, Hellmanns!


The good news is Aunt Mary still maintains some manner of astonishment after the ravages of  vintage recipes. The bad news, it seems demonic cults were once a viable target market for at least one condiment company.

what a day gunn


Back to School, Back to Cool (Ads)!

School is back in session and so is the Storytime! It’s been a great summer but it is time to get back to the work of perusing ads in all their many forms and glories.

Let’s kick off this season of learnin’ with a bevy of back-so-school ads.

Staples seemed to have it together for a few years there, dominating the school supplies market.

When I ask people about their favorite ads (yes, I do that) this commercial is often brought up. Even if you are totally geeked about your kids going back to school, this just isn’t nice. Funny and relatable, but not nice.


Here’s Darnell from “My Name is Earl” being super cool.


Also, these ads from my copy of Parents Magazine from September, 1950.

1950, when the hot trend was for middle schoolers to look like tiny insurance salesmen.


I found this ad fascinating because it was advertised to parents during the post WWII building boom. As communities worked to keep up with infrastructure demand, someone thought to nudge the parents. I would love to know if it worked!


Does Stride Rite make these shoes in adult size because I’m totally in. The hat too.

She’s Krafty!

It’s Recipe Wednesday!

Here is the “before” picture leading up to this jelly-Velveeta omelet gaining sentience and destroying a small sea-side town. All it wanted was love! Is that so wrong?

velveeta omlete
It’s surprisingly…um…chunky. 

This charming ad hits a lot of my favorite retro ad spots: goofy imagery, claims of superlative benefits, oddball copy. I like to think of mid-century moms making this for their hordes of baby-boomer kids. It makes me happy!

velveeta smiles

Those Gawdaful Charmin Bears

Gather ’round, my children, for as it has been written in the prophesy, the time has come for Aunt Mary to speak the truth.

My philosophy in writing the Ad Storytime is that creative work is hard, marrying the ingenuity and psychology needed for advertising is harder and we should acknowledge this process. I try to praise the great and fun efforts and respectfully inspect the ones that miss the target.

But, Y’all, I can.not.stand those damn Charmin toilet paper bears.

This long running campaign is obviously doing something right because Charmin trots them out time and again, but if it were up to me it would be hunting time and Charmin bears would be in season.

I cannot imagine the hubris it takes to actually answer the smart-ass hypothetical of “Does a bear crap in the woods?” with “Yes! And he uses our product to wipe his butt.” How does an Adman walk into a pitch meeting with this in their wing? Were they drunk? Were the clients drunk? Was everybody just really super crazy drunk?

My loathing is three-fold:

1 It’s twee. Toilet paper is a pretty straight forward and honest product. Everyone needs toilet paper and really there’s not a huge difference from brand to brand, so I get the need to set your product apart, but the cuteness is too much. In a savvy marketplace that loves nothing more than irony, Charmin decided to go the baby talk route. Furthermore, implying the mother bear is checking her family for dingle-berries is gross. One ad even references skid marks. Not cool.

Mamma Charmin, the pinnacle of Helicopter Moms.

2. It smacks of building brand loyalty with kids. It feels to me that children are the target market here. It is an old trick to engage a population when they are young so they are comfortable with the product when they are adults (Joe Camel anyone?). It certainly is playing the long game here, hoping kids will have the warm fuzzies 20 years hence. I can also see parents buying Charmin while shopping with their kids because Junior thinks the dancing bears are funny. P&G even prints the bears on the Charmin packaging making it easy for kids to pick out and has created stuffed animals of the bears.

I acknowledge this may be a “Bitch eating crackers” point on my part. Building brand loyalty is a respectable strategy if it is done with care. For fun, here is an example of it not being done with care.


3. They replaced Mr. Whipple with this?

Sure, Mr. W. had his issues, including a fanatical need to keep housewives from squeezing his toilet paper selection, but he had heart and the commercial landed where it needed to. This here is some comfy toilet paper and a goofy slogan was born. I like to think he spent a lot of time on those TP pyramids and had witnessed one too many folks tipsy from cooking sherry use it as a soft place to land.

To prove they were once capable of awesome advertising, here is a great Charmin ad. Simple and classy, it’s an elegant appeal to a higher sense. This fine lady would never shake her booty in your face.

charmin flowers ad

With this  public reproach I’m sure the Charmin accountants have a better idea of why they are $10 short each month as Aunt Mary refuses to buy this product. You can do better, we have faith in you!



Just One Ad – It’ll Tickle Yore Innards!

Behold the Mountain Dew! Rested upon the lips and shirts of basement dwelling D&D gamers and Xtreme Sports athletes alike, surely its noble history is filled with delicate and nuanced advertising to a mature and refined audience. Let’s look, shall we?

Hmm…Guess not…

This Hanna-Barbara looking ad from the 1960’s featured long-time mascot Willy the Hillbilly voiced by Grandpa Jones, a legendary country star and banjo player. Willy was retired in 1969 when the makers of “the Dew” decided to court a younger and more “outdoorsy” market.

If you’re like me you are left with a lot of questions after viewing that ad. Questions like:

Who decided hillbillies were the perfect brand ambassadors?

What does “tickle yore innards” really mean? Is it code for something dirty?

Why is “your” spelled yore? mountain dew yore

Did they know Mountain Dew was a euphemism for moonshine?

How many times can I watch this before my tilted head and questioning expression are permanent?

In general, I just don’t get Mountain Dew’s advertising choices. This year’s Super Bowl ad (Puppy Monkey Baby) is still going strong and I seriously don’t get it. I understand the new drink if made of 3 things that go together (juice, Mt. Dew and the tears of mothers whose sons are Mt. Dew drinkers) but it still creeps me out.

Then again, Aunt Mary is neither a young man nor particularly outdoorsy and therefor not in their target market. My innards shall remain untickled.

That really does sound dirty.

Aunt Mary’s face when this ad comes on.

Just One Ad – 50 Watts Per Channel, Babycakes

Detroit had some of the best local ads ever produced and none were as quoted or still as beloved as those from now-defunct Highland Appliance. If you were a TV watcher of any age during the ’80’s in metro Detroit, this commercial is instantly recognizable and drips with nostalgia.

While researching this spot I found many folks calling this the best ad ever. I may not be able to agree with that sentiment, but the concept is fun and the commercial has impressive production quality not often seen in a local ad. It’s silly and goofy while never making light of the store or its products.

Speaking of the products, the size and price of the electronics in this ad seem absolutely bananas to we modern viewers. Makes one wonder what modern amenities will be unfathomable to folks 30 years hence, babycakes.