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Sometimes We Need More Back-to-the-Future Advertising

I’m on a plane to New Jersey for my 25th high school reunion, which promises a cover band that will play both Billy Idol and Cyndi Lauper, and a slide show of pictures from when we all had mullets. Low-tech time travel! And earlier this week my kids and I watched the 1989 box office hit Back to the Future II, which features actual time travel. You may already be aware that the movie sends Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) into a distant future — 2015 — to meet his older self and that older self’s wayward children.

It’s always fun when we get the chance to catch up to imagined futures depicted in science fiction (or 80s comedies). In this case Robert Zemeckis et al totally blew it with the flying cars, hovering skateboards and the eighties-only-brighter outfits. But Doc’s pocket computer does look a lot like an iPhone, and I, for one, eat a lot of compressed, dehydrated foods (and our modern foil-wrapped energy bars don’t even require a rehydrating oven).

I also love vintage ads, mostly because of how silly they sound to contemporary ears. Like ads encouraging you to pour 7Up down your baby’s throat or doctors recommending Camel cigarettes. But every now and then you find a vintage ad that should still be in rotation, like this one from IBM (thanks, Kurt!):

IBM ad from the January 1985 issue of the Atlantic Monthly

IBM ad from the January 1985 issue of the Atlantic Monthly

From the modern-day Atlantic:

The January 1985 issue of The Atlantic Monthly offered its readers an assortment of wonders. A cover story on “Theaterphobia” — a moviegoer’s experience on Broadway — penned by one David Denby. A humor piece by Patricia Marx titled, cheekily, “Getting Along With Russians.” A literary take on the complexities of E.M. Forster, and of Degas, and of Matisse. And that was just the journalism. There were also the ads. Oh, such ads! Ads for cars (“there is a special feel in an Oldsmobile”). Ads for cigarettes (Marlboro/Merit/Carlton) featuring horses and bold claims regarding tar levels and, in one particularly awesome instance, a surly-looking sea captain. Ads for delights both physical (NordicTrak cross-country ski machine!) and intellectual (Book of the Month Club!).

Plus this ad from IBM promoting its investment in programs to increase the number of women studying and working in science, tech, engineering and math:

In the past ten years, IBM has supported more than 90 programs designed to strengthen women’s skills in these and other areas. This support includes small grants for pre-college programs in engineering, major grants for science programs at leading women’s colleges, and grants for doctoral fellowships in physics, computer science, mathematics, chemistry, engineering, and materials science.

According to IBM’s ad, 13.6% of math and science PhDs in early 1980s were women. I assume that counts all living PhDs at the time, not just graduates in a given year. Given the current stats that say 22% of engineering PhDs and 27% of math and computer science PhDs are award to women (see Inside Higher Ed), the numbers should be heading in the right direction, eventually. But, dang, that’s not exactly lightning-speed progress. And as the recent controversy over Twitter’s all-male board makes clear, the shortage of women in tech needs an explanation that goes beyond math. Perhaps boardrooms that include some women will invest more money in educational programs (and ad campaigns) that accelerate the pace of change.

Is Toucan Sam to Blame for Childhood Obesity?

Toucan Sam of Froot Loops

As US regulators are proposing new restrictions on advertising junk food to kids, the NY Times asks, “Will Toucan Sam go the way of Joe Camel?”

“Citing an epidemic of childhood obesity, regulators are taking aim at a range of tactics used to market foods high in sugar, fat or salt to children, including the use of cartoon characters like Toucan Sam, the brightly colored Froot Loops pitchman, who appears in television commercials and online games as well as on cereal boxes.”

Like anyone else, I’d love to stamp out childhood obesity and do everything we can to create safer, healthier environments for kids. But I think the government is pointing at the wrong guy (or bird) when they single out Toucan Sam. According to the CDC, childhood obesity among children 6 to 11 was 6.5% in 1980, and then experienced a steep climb — to 19.6% — over the next 30 years.

Toucan Sam started pitching Froot Loops in 1963, though, so what explains his poor performance for the first half of his career? (Joe Camel hit the scene in 1987.) And how does one explain the popularity of Coke, Snickers bars and Twinkies among young people, given that they don’t use cartoon animals in their commercials?

Chupa Chups Wants You to Stop Smoking and Start Sucking

Chupa Chups Stop Smoking Start Sucking

I figured it was bad form to leave up, in the top position on my site, a story that tells people to smoke Camels. So here’s something a little more wholesome from lollypop-maker Chupa Chups. These packages, designed to look a bit like cigarette packs, play off their “Stop Smoking. Start Sucking” tagline.

Their latest print campaign, for Mini Chupa Chups, is also clever — enlisting petite celebs such as Barbie to help get the size-specific point across.

Barbie Print Ads for Mini Chupa Chups

For Digestion's Sake, Smoke Camels

Camel Ad in Life Mag 1936

In this vintage Camel ad from a 1936 issue of Life Magazine, Camel recommends a cigarette between each course of your Thanksgiving meal.

“The time-honoured turkey of our forefathers — done to a crisp and golden brown — and flanked by a mountain of ruby cranberry jelly. By all means enjoy a second helping. But before you do — smoke another Camel. Camels ease tension. Speed up the flow of digestive fluids. Increase alkalinity. Help your digestion to run smoothly.”

I ignored the advice, and now I have no idea how to get my alkalinity back in order.

From Geekosystem.