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TV History: Adverisements

by Christine Becker

This clip was uploaded for an assignment in Christine Becker's FTT 30461: History of Television class at the University of Notre Dame in Spring 2019. Check the commentary dropdown menu for a student's analysis of the clip.

Controversial 50s Commercials

by Davis Chatfield

The first of four commercials that I chose is a Goodyear Tire advertisement from the mid 1950s. It first shows a car parked on the side of the road in a dark setting with smoke and very dramatic music being played in the background. A man begins by saying “This flat tire needs a man”, though the only person to be shown appears to be a woman. It reveals the classic norm of a woman not being able to perform a man’s job. She desperately walks to a telephone booth as the narrator says “When there’s no man around, Goodyear should be”. The advertisement is for women who have gotten a flat tire in the middle of the night and do not know what to do. With the new Goodyear double eagle tire, there is a “tire inside of a tire”, making it much more durable than an average one. A commercial like this would certainly not be shown today because it downplays what a woman is able to achieve. It hints that women are unable to do manly tasks such as this one. It ends with “Next time, give her a second chance”, which signals towards the dominance a man has in a marriage. It is as if women are not usually given second chances if they accidentally run over a sharp object at night, but this new tire would be able to save them from that.
The next commercial I found was of a young cartoon bull that wanted to sing in a special way, striving to be a part of the “Bull of the Woods Quartet”. However, his voice was high pitched and nasally, and his father told him to sing much “deeper, rich, and mild” which is the epitome of what the chewing tobacco brand was. As time went on, the young bull kept on using chewing tobacco until his voice became worthy of being the lead role of the Bull of the Woods Quartet. The young bull went to the other bulls and sang a catchy song about the chewing tobacco which is an effective way to gain buyers. This controversial advertisement is one that would not be shown today, especially as the FCC has put restrictions on tobacco ads. It shows how starting people young – as the young bull started young – is essential for acquiring a rich voice, when in turn it produces a rough, throaty one.
The third commercial I watched was from the Flintstones – one of the most popular cartoon televisions shows to ever exist. It starts with Fred and Barney watching Betty (a woman), work hard in the backyard. Fred turns to Barney and says “they sure do work hard”, revealing them giving women credit for the work they do around the house. It was odd to see a woman do work outside of the house. Barney suggests that they go around back so they can’t see the woman work and decide to do something. Barney is happy about to take a “Winston break” and smoke a few cigarettes while they are hanging out. The commercial shows how easy it is to step outside and take the edge off by getting nicotine in your system. In the 1950s, the side effects of smoking cigarettes were unknown and everyone seemed to do it. This type of commercial would certainly not be shown today, especially having a cartoon show be the advocate of it. The Flintstones was a show that many young kids watched so if they saw this, they would most likely be inclined to take Winston breaks as well.
The fourth and final commercial I chose starts with a man getting his day ready with his pet bird and wife. As the bird is chirping, the man says “good morning sweet birdie” to his wife. The wife goes to make him a cup of coffee but is out of mix. The man turns to the camera dramatically and says “out of coffee?!”. His wife frantically searches the kitchen but finds nothing and is close to running to the store and getting coffee for her husband. A voiceover cuts in to advertise the “Giant Maxwell House Coffee” container and promotes it by saying “to always make sure you have coffee for the man in your house”. I found it particularly interesting because it signifies the typical roles for men and women in 1950s society. The man was getting ready for work, fully expecting his wife to be able to make him breakfast. The woman is horrified when she sees that there is no coffee mix left because she knows how crucial it is for her to get her man prepared for the day. I found this commercial particularly interesting as it ties in with the advertisements for television sets during this time period. In Lynn Sigel’s “Installing the Television Set”, on page 14 she writes “the woman’s table serving chores clearly isolate her from the television crowd”. It is a woman’s duty to be able to serve the family at home and leave the fun for the man of the house and the kids. Spigel highlights how women are separate from men and the rest of the family because they are more likely to be doing work around the house and providing food.

1950s TV Advertisements

This clip contains four TV advertisements from the 1950s and 1960s.

from "Old Commercials That Would Be "Politically Incorrect" Today" (1959)
Creator: Unknown
Distributor: YouTube (User: FredFlix)
Posted by Christine Becker