June 18, 2010

Advertising Is A Good History Teacher

Advertising is a good history teacher.

One of the lessons our teachers and history professors always try to impress on us -- usually fruitlessly -- is that it is very tricky to judge the past by applying contemporary standards.

Advertising teaches this wonderfully.

A few days ago, one of my readers (CaliforniaGirl) sent a link to a post she had written.

The post was about past ads that we now find alarming and insulting. I have taken the liberty to reproduce some of them here.

The post got me thinking. Politics and values change so fast, ads that were acceptable just a few decades ago would now cause instant outrage.

And yet, at the time they probably seemed reasonable.

Our advertising is a very reliable mirror of contemporary culture. And like every generation before us, we think of ourselves as terribly civilized  and enlightened.

I wonder which ads (and which values) we accept as reasonable today will be viewed as archaic and disgusting 50 years from now.

Surely we are not immune to the evolution of culture and the idiosyncrasies of history.

(For a better look at these ads, and others, go to CaliforniaGirl's website.)

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