We’ll be back, right after this

While perusing an archived copy of a June 1965 Nashua Telegraph, I happened upon this old TV and Radio listing. It brought back not only memories from classic TV shows (Patty Duke, Dobie Gillis and Ozzie and Harriet), but it prompted flashbacks of some of the old commercials that aired for products, many of which no longer exist.

I can remember reviewing a VHS tape (yes, that ancient media prior to downloads and DVD’s) during a Marketing class in college. The DVD, titled, “Those Crazy Old Commercials” focused on commercials from the 1950’s and 60’s. My, how times have changed. Back in the day, a typical commercial ran for about 60 seconds, and there was often only one per program, with many of them done live during the show. Some were mini anthologies of family events. Ford or Chevy commercials might follow a family taking a long cross-country drive while touting the virtues of the product. Cigarette commercials, prior to being banned on the airwaves, were very common. Any guess on who sponsored the popular cartoon series, The Flintstones? Winston cigarettes! Yup, old Fred and Barney were shown relaxing in their back yards puffing on a Winston. Lucy and Ricky urged their viewers to smoke Philip Morris and Nat King Cole proudly plugged Chesterfields. Ironically, both Ricky and Nat were lost to cancer, but Fred and Barney are still enjoying brontosaurus burgers.

We wondered where the yellow went when we brushed our teeth with Pepsodent. A little beaver named Bucky Ipana sold Ipana toothpaste, prompting us to “Brusha, Brusha, Brusha.” Then there was Gleem, “for people who can’t brush after every meal” (a dentist’s dream) and of course today’s Colgate and Crest.

There were dozens of soap and cleaning agent commercials, which interestingly spawned the term “soap opera,” as those dramas were originally sponsored by soap companies. A laundry detergent known as Silver Dust gave away free towels in every box. We learned how Ajax laundry detergent was stronger than dirt, how Windex made our windows so clean they squeaked, how Mr. Clean would clean our whole house and everything that’s in it and of course we still wonder, “Just how does Ivory Soap float?”

They were all politically incorrect and sexist by today’s standards. Any product related to what was deemed “housework,” such as vacuum cleaners, soaps, irons, washers, and dryers, were specifically targeted to women. The voiceover in many of these ads would be heard saying something like, “Ladies, you will love… Housewives prefer… or Gentlemen, your wives will love…” Wow! I’d bet any woman today would love to get those sponsors in a room alone.

Back then, the “wet head” was very much alive and quite popular with the gentlemen. We saw ads for hair products like Brylcreem (a little dab’ll do ya), Vitalis Hair Tonic (see my prior column on tonic), Wildroot Crèam Oil or even Vaseline, that ensured a man’s groomed hair could withstand 100 mph winds with little to no movement.

Fast forward to today. Some commercials are tolerable, some we loathe and for others, we can’t even figure out what’s being sold. Whenever watching a football game, I often feel like I’m just watching commercials when, all-of-a-sudden, a couple of football plays appear. Most prime time shows break for a commercial about every 10 minutes. And genres of commercials today? Let’s just say, no one in their wildest dreams back in the day would ever imagine they would see sold on TV what we see today. We can no longer see a cigarette commercial, but we can see underwear ads for both men and women using live models, along with provocative Victoria’s Secret ads the entire family can enjoy (not). Then there are everybody’s favorites, especially before or during dinner, spots for products related to constipation, diarrhea, stool testing, ED, bladder control and catheters. Makes that casserole you are about to consume mighty inviting, doesn’t it?

Some spots are as short as ten seconds, some as long as 30. But rarely are any ads nowadays longer than 30 seconds, barring infomercials, and let’s not go there. Maybe too costly? Or maybe it’s just divine intervention? If so, then thank you Lord! Nonetheless, it’s obvious that the target markets of today are vastly different than the target markets of yesterday thus, the resulting commercials. It almost makes me long for the days of snowy black and white TV with rabbit ears.

I’ll be back… right after this message.

Don Canney is a freelance writer and professional voice artist. He was born and raised in downtown Nashua with great interest in Nashua history circa 1950-1970. He now resides in Litchfield.