History of Advertising in America in the 1950s Part 3

About the history of advertising in the United States in the 1950s, the growth of science, cigarettes and dieting advertising.

THE 1950S

Dieting became a major national issue. The consumption of low-calorie soft drinks multiplied 300 times between 1952 and 1955. The market was flooded with dietary aids, from bath salts and nonporous garments to pastes, candy, suction cups, belts, drugs. "Slim" became a significant social goal. In 1957, a congressional committee found that nearly all of the dietary products were practically worthless, and that the American public had been paying over $100 million a year for phony latter-day patent medicines. Additionally, in the area of nutrition and health, advertising oversimplified--and therefore falsified--important information. For example, in order to sell more cooking oil and modified fat products, the advertising Merlins declared that "cholesterol" was the main factor in heart disease. This was not a unanimous scientific feeling, yet it was so widely disseminated throughout the culture that it became a "fact." Much the same thing occurred with toothpastes. Several additives ranged from ammoniates to chlorophyll to antienzymes to fluoride--all of which provided inconclusive dental help. Rather than teaching people better nutritional habits and brushing techniques, the advertisers claimed that some new kind of additive would provide proper dental care.

And cigarettes, in the 1950s, didn't escape; there was a cancer scare. The manufacturers and the admen decided to push filters as an antidote to the negative publicity. Although the AMA reported that filters were nearly inconsequential, the ads promised that everything would be well. Ads began emphasizing rewards for hard work done, in place of earlier dreamy idylls and "taste/pleasure" promos. "Independent Testing Laboratories" appeared to legitimatize the universal claims that each brand was now milder, lower in tars and nicotine. When sales began to climb back up, Printer's Ink, an advertising trade journal, reported that "the public is approaching the smoking-health problem in adult fashion."

Another ad which exemplifies the era read: "Afraid of A-Bomb contamination? In the event of an A-Bomb attack wash contamination away with Flobar. . . ."

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