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history of advertising to women
by Billy Ingram
with thanks to Justin Kaplowitz

From the very beginning of the ad age, women became a key strategic focal point for advertisers. The polyester decade in particular played host to some of the most memorable and wildly successful ad campaigns of all time.

All too often, early TV advertisements aimed at "the weaker sex" were condescending and simplistic. The women's movement in the sixties was one factor leading advertisers to rethink the methods they were using to reach an increasingly important market segment.

As the 1970s unfolded, more and more women were working, heading households and / or controlling the discretionary spending for the family.

ads for women in the 1970s
Classic TV!


Clips from rare archival footage-
the picture quality is not so great


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Entertainment Collectables

ads for women in the 1970sTickle

"Make yourself happy with a little tickle." What were they selling here - deodorant or orgasms? It's hard to tell, but Tickle flew off the shelves with its bulbous, colorfully phallic bottle and this ridiculous ad campaign.

If there's a more blatantly sexual ad campaign than this one, I haven't seen it - the "antiperspirant with the big wide ball" kept these women positively giddy all day.


history of advertising to womenCarefree Panty Shields

When, oh when, did the male population start suffering through a daily bombardment of tampon and panty shield commercials? It was in the seventies, that's when feminine napkin makers realized they had a product that could be a great deal more profitable if they could expand the lines and create new variations.

classic tv adsFifty years earlier, when Kotex was introduced, a woman's period was never discussed in the media; it was considered mysterious, superstitious and dirty. By the mid-1970s tampon ads were ubiquitous in all areas of mass media, especially on daytime TV.

Morgan Britanny starred in a 1975 Kotex spot.

Kentucky Fried Chicken

"It's so nice to feel - so good about a meal - so good about Kentucky Fried Chicken."

If you're going to convince American families that fast food is good food, then you'd better start with the mom. Kentucky Fried Chicken understood that when they launched an aggressive campaign to lure families to their stores.

This is a 1970 commercial featuring Colonel Harlan Sanders, the guy who started the franchise. After he sold the company in 1964, Col. Sanders was wisely installed as the restaurant's kindly spokesperson. He was so old by the mid-1970s, he would merely make a cameo appearance at the end of the spots. He died in 1980.

In the 1980s Kentucky Fried Chicken changed its name to KFC because 'fried" had become synonymous in the public's mind with unhealthy. During the 1990s KFC revived Col. Sanders (in animated form); in 2005, the company resurrected the Kentucky Fried Chicken moniker.

Col. Sanders Drunk:




US Marine Corp AdsThe US Marine Corp

When the nation went from the draft to an all volunteer armed forces in 1973, suddenly the four branches of the military were in need of aggressive advertising campaigns to fill the ranks.

It's rare that an ad agency nails a campaign so perfectly from the outset but this is one shining example - "The Marines are looking for a few good men." That slogan became the basis for Marine Corp ads for the next three decades, a phrase recognized today all around the world.

Notice in this early example there were lingering shots of guys in camouflage gear marching through the woods, running, jumping and giving speeches. Today, the military wisely emphasizes the high tech nature of the job; thirty years ago the soldier's job was decidedly more low tech.

classic tv commercialsThe 'few good men' campaign proved so successful, a variation was employed to recruit women into the Marines.

But wait - is that a flower on the cover of the Marine Corp brochure for women?

advertising for women


"You can trust your car to the man who wears the star" was the phrase that paid for Texaco; they'd been using it since the 1940s. That slogan still made sense as the oil giant sought to lure women to their gas and repair facilities.

This ad used the image of a woman learning to drive as a metaphor representing the emerging, independent female.

Until the sixties, women drivers were somewhat of an anachronism; by the 1970s they became an important untapped customer base for car repair dealers.

classic commercialsMaytag

This was one of the most successful ad campaigns of all time, designed to make you believe Maytag's products are so dependable their repairmen are lonesome old sad sacks. Jesse White (seen here) was the original Maytag repairman, the ads continue to this day with Gordon Jump (WKRP in Cincinnati) as the perpetually lonely repairman.


Bing Crosby CommercialMinute Maid Orange Juice

"Mom is in the clubhouse mixin' up the Minute Maid" - happy family scenes from one of the unhappiest families on earth!

What better spokesperson could there be for a family friendly product than Bing Crosby, the affable singing movie star Americans spent their Christmases with? Behind the scenes things weren't so pretty.

classic commercials on tvFar from being the kindly father, Crosby was a cold man whose sons from his first marriage faced alcohol abuse, drug addiction, and suicide in their adult years.

But, hey, this was his second family - and the OJ was good!

Secret deoderant - US Marine Corp Ads

Secret Deodorant

"Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman."

In this spot, the husband is shocked - shocked - that his wife insists on taking her own personal bottle of deodorant on a trip.

Secret did such a great job of marketing their product to women that most men would go without deodorant rather than use Secret for fear of some kind of hormonal transfer that might take place, like they would grow boobs or something.



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Like SodaLike

A soft drink marketed exclusively to women, Like was competing with Fresca and Tab, two low calorie beverages also aimed at the ladies.

Thinking at the time was that men wouldn't be the slightest bit interested in losing weight - and they weren't for the most part - therefore any diet soft drink could automatically be considered a feminine product. Like was the most aggressive about making that distinction, actively discouraging men from using the product in their ads because it didn't contain "six spoons of sugar."

In another Like spot, a woman discovers a hip, swinging disco hidden in her grocery store - courtesy of Like, which ultimately failed in the marketplace, perhaps because of their overly strident marketing plan.

In an apparent strategy reversal, in the early-1980's Like was sponsoring NASCAR races; it was too little, too late - the product disappeared soon after.

Avon commercial


"Avon calling!" That durable catch phrase served this home based business well. In the mid-seventies, "Avon - you never looked so good" was added as a jingle tag and it too was tremendously effective.

The challenge Avon faced - how do you convince people that someone coming to your door to sell you products is something to look forward to, not to dread.

classic commercials / advertising for womenTab

"Be good to yourself with Tab." Introduced in 1963, Tab (from the Coca-Cola bottlers) was the first major sugar-free soda.

Tab, which just recently went back to their original flavor formula, is still sold today but in limited areas.


Be Fresh

Remember the lady who called out "Hungry - Hungry Jack!" for Hungry Jack Biscuits? It's none other than Fran Ryan (the second Mrs. Ziffle on Green Acres). Well, she turned up again as the maid who "doesn't do toilets" because Be Fresh Toilet Bowl Cleaner does the job for her. "It's the shower for the bowl." Huh?!?

Here's a Hungry Jack Commercial:

Down Home Goodness...

Cool Whip
Marge Redmond (The Flying Nun) rode out the seventies as the kindly proprietor of 'Tucker Inn' where they only served "the fresh taste of Cool Whip" on their desserts.


vivian vanceMaxwell House Coffee

Vivian Vance (Lucy Show) was seen as Maxine, the company pastry and coffee lady at a time when the concept of women in the workplace was a relatively new one - at least on TV.

A similar role was held by Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch of the West from Wizard of Oz) who sold Maxwell House coffee in commercials after Vivian Vance left the role.


Before They Were Stars...
classic commercialsUltra Brite

Prior to her role on Charlie's Angels, Farrah Fawcett sold Ultra Brite toothpaste in this incredibly popular spot that ran for many years thanks to her ever increasing fame.

English Leather US Marine Corp AdsEnglish Leather

"All of my men wear English Leather - or they wear nothing at all" was very familiar to TV viewers in the seventies - designed to entice women to purchase a fragrance, not for themselves, but for their man.

Here's Jaclyn Smith (pre-Charlie's Angels) delivering the sex appeal that made this perennial Christmastime campaign sizzle.


classic commercials

Machiavellian's Aviance

classic commercials"It's going to be an Aviance night..." In other words, someone's getting laid tonight. At least that's the inference as this secretary tears away at her clothing (in the office, no less!), lets her hair down and heads out for her date, who's waiting out in the parking lot singing about their upcoming "Aviance night."

This masterfully catchy jingle was used effectively for the next two decades.


Maxwell House Coffee
w / Margaret Hamilton


Remember - The Ty-D-Bol
man who lived in the toilet?





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