My mom’s parents always had the latest gadgets and electronics, so it was typical of them that they bought their first television in 1949. South Bend, where Mom grew up, didn’t have its own TV stations yet, so Grandpa put up a big antenna and they watched Chicago stations. They had the only television in their neighborhood for quite some time, and all the neighborhood kids wanted to visit to watch whatever shows were on. TV was so new that every show seemed like an event.
1949 television was very primitive. Most stations were on the air only a few hours a day, and most shows and commercials were live. But television grew up fast during the 1950s and by the end of the decade it had fully taken shape. My mom, as a little girl, had a front row seat to it all.
Mom especially enjoyed animated commercials. So many commercials in TV’s early days consisted of a man in a suit holding up the product and talking about it. It made animated commercials all the more compelling to my mom as a young girl.
Sometimes the advertised products were things Mom might use, such as toothpaste.
Sometimes the advertised products were things Mom couldn’t care less about, such as bank loans. No matter, she still watched.
This commercial for Winston cigarettes caused quite hubbub in its day. The prevailing wisdom then was that television should use English properly, and this commercial’s slogan committed a grammatical error. Only the strictest grammarian would arch an eyebrow today, and he or she would tell you that the slogan should be “Winston tastes good as a cigarette should.”
The simple line-art style of the previous two commercials was common among animated commercials in the ’50s. I figure the simpler they were, the less expensive they were to produce. This spot for Maypo maple-flavored oatmeal was very popular.
Another way to keep costs down was to create short commercials, such as this one for Hellman’s Mayonnaise.
Commercials for medicines were great candidates for animation because it provided a great way to illustrate how the medicine worked.
There was a time when most people could sing the Black Label Beer jingle – hey, Mabel! I haven’t seen this beer on store shelves since the 1970s.
Plenty of beer commercials were animated in the 1950s, including this one for Hamm’s Beer. This log-rolling bear and hapless duck shilled Hamm’s beer on TV into the 1970s. I remember watching a shorter, colorized version of it when I was a child.
In this age of recording shows on DVRs or watching them on the Internet, advertisers struggle to get their ads noticed. Maybe they should take a lesson from the 1950s and animate more of them.
Vintage TV is an occasional feature here at Down the Road.
Check out all the other Vintage TV posts I’ve written.