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Refreshing Candor in 1960s Magazine Ads

Mechanix Illustrated

An office mate of mine showed me some old copies of magazines he picked up at a garage sale, including this May 1960 issue of Mechanix Illustrated. With features on how to assemble your own trailer and build your own amazing jet boat, and a behind-the-scenes profile of gunpowder-powered projectiles (the one-handed shotguns used by the Santa Monica police), it’s the Make Magazine of its era.

Charles Atlas

I was delighted to spot this ad for the Charles Atlas exercise book, and its promise to convert readers into He-Men. (I had never seen the actual ad before, but I knew of its existence from my grandfather’s old joke in which he claims to have sent the following letter, six weeks after ordering the book: “Dear Mr Atlas. Thank you for the book. I read the whole thing, now please send the muscles.”)

Chevy Corvair

My favorite thing about the ads in general, though is that — unlike so many viral and (bad) native campaigns you see today — these vintage ads aren’t afraid to be ads. They show a pride in their company’s products and they couldn’t be more transparent in their salesmanship. “Replace those old [spark] plugs with new full-firing Champions.” “Dollar for dollar, drill for drill — now is the time to buy” a Black and Decker drill. “The man to see is your Chevrolet dealer — and there’s no better time than now.” I don’t know how many cars or drills or spark plugs these ads would sell to the ad-fatigued consumers of 2013, but at least they’re not playing deceptive games with typeface to fool us into looking.