Death, taxes, advertising. Always with us. These brands are still with us, in part because of the effectiveness of their advertising in the Saturday Evening Post. If I had to name the most ubiquitous form of propaganda in 1933, I’d say it was the Post. It was cheap, it was dumb enough for any reader, and the pictures were pretty.
Campbells was selling love. Nothing says home like a big old pot of soup simmering on the stove, but who has the time? Now you buy it in a can, but can you trust it on your children? Well, just look at these kids!
I mean, really look at them. (if you click the picture you’ll get a super big image) Brother and Sister can’t wait to get home to a bowl of Mom’s soup. It’s fall (just about November 11, probably), the prairie grass is a beautiful yellow, there are distant purple mountains majesty in the distance… no wait, look closer, those are the houses of town. So they’re not actually pioneer children racing home from the one-room schoolhouse. My bad.
Anyway, the image evokes the simple joys of childhood, and it’s artsie in the Norman Rockwell way. But there’s something creepy about the way the girls legs are painted. I look and I look and I still can’t figure out which leg is her left and which is her right. Oh well, it’s probably nothing.
Her red jacket just happens to be Campbell’s Soup Can Red. Her plaid skirt and the boy’s argyle sox and their fair hair make you start humming “The Campbells are coming, ta ra ta ra!” Or not. Probably insignificant details.
Don’t worry about the ad copy, or the little cartoon Campbells Kid, or the fact that they say “21 kinds to choose from” but list 22 kinds of soup. Everyone knows that printanier ain’t available in November!
OK, next up is this amazing bit of brain-twisting propaganda, and if you can’t spot the message you need to go back to propaganda school. It starts with an awful pun on a bible verse that everyone was familiar with in ’33. Mathew 13:57: “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.” I don’t know what Jesus meant when he said it, but it really means “I wuz fukin’ right!” and that your family and friends are just too stupid to understand you. This is how the local Babbits defend themselves against everyone- especially the government- trying to tell them how to run their businesses. It’s the expression of resentment, self righteousness, of wounded pride.
A person- say, Matt Christman- could spend hours fisking the copy for this one. I’m just content to call it word salad. Yet it was written so effectively by the ad agency Goebbels that they note that “Reprints of this advertisement are available in leaflet form”. Pass them out at the country club or at work. Lay one on your boss’s desk- he’ll know that you’re a right guy.
The graphics are really cool here too, surreal like the gigantic arm rising from the tobacco field in the Lucky’s ads. Here is a laurel wreath, the Roman symbol of winning, clutched in the fist of a disembodied arm, as if presenting the award to… what, an entire city? No, it’s more like shaking its fist (which happens to be a winning fist) at the city, the unseeing, uncaring world which just doesn’t understand that “I’m a winner!!!”
Beneath the vague city, the city of dreams, we have a simple plowman. Yes that’s you, reader. The one who still believe in the simple values that make America great. Plowing. Stuff like that. None of this sophisticated socialist bullshit coming from distant powers.
The next ad is flying right out of the subconscious. It seems simple enough- a stunt girl leaps from a speeding car to a harness attached to an airplane. Good trick, right? But think about what it symbolizes. You can leave your hum-drum earthly bounds only if you’re daring enough to try. Only if you’ve got the nerve!
I’m sure I couldn’t do it. Maybe if I had some help- like the power of nicotine? It sure helps you stay focused! Funny how one sign of a nervous person, a classic tell, is to see them sucking on a cancer stick, chain-smoking. Mixed message, isn’t it?
Maybe that’s how this propaganda works. It poses a dilemma, a conundrum, a contradiction. Then it offers a way out. If you want to reach for the sky, but it’s too scary (or there’s really no possibility of success) maybe it’s not because you’re a nervous smoker- maybe it’s the brand you’re smoking? Be a steady smoker, like wonder girl here.
As usual with the cigarette ads, there are way too many slogans on the page. It IS more fun to know was the slogan from the previous campaign. Just can’t drop it!
Last is best. This one was the centerfold of the November 11th Post. Big money placement, for sure, full color. It seems way modern to me. Something about the deadly accuracy of the composition. There’s not a wasted detail.
At the top, an unusual typeface draws the eye. The phrase is simple, folksy, and therefore, honest. You see the smiling faces. An old farmer, a young sophisticate. What are they looking at? They’re looking at a tire.
These two are bonded together because they know their tires. He, the wizened man of the earth, is letting her, the reader, know that they are clever enough to get through this depression. You gotta know your tires.
I’m a little suspish of the way he’s looking at her tire, almost as if “that spare is just what I need to complete MY set!”. She, on the other hand, is smiling the smile of “the man who gets MY tire is going to be a good provider”. Or maybe I’m reading too much into this. Probably.
Now the weird stuff. He calls her “Miss,” but we’d be expecting her to be a “M’am” out shopping to put food on her family. The unseen Mom from the Campbells ad. She looks old enough to be the Mom- but she’s driving a shiny new car, a sporty looking, young person’s car, not a practical family wagon. If she’s buying those eggs he’s holding, she must be feeding the entire regiment.
And didn’t anyone tell this shrewd old man never to put all his eggs in one basket? At his age he might let it drop at any moment. Ah well, so long and good luck old farmer, I’m off to have the cow shit washed off my Goodyears. I don’t know why I must continue buying my weekly dozens of eggs at this disgusting farm, but I guess it’s because they’re such a bargain.
be a good egg, here.