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Celebrating Illustration, Design, Cartoon and Comic Art of the Mid-20th Century

Pepsi: Success with the Ladies

Friday, January 04, 2008

Long time readers will recall last year's week-long look at Pepsi's decade-spanning ad campaign. At that time I posited that during the 50's, unlike its main competitor Coca Cola, Pepsi's marketing strategy was to target women specifically.


Imagine my delight upon discovering the oddball ad below in a 1955 Saturday Evening Post:

"For the third year in a row," reads the body copy, "Pepsi is talking to women in women's language. They talk to women about women. In terms of modern woman's good taste, good health, good figure - and good sense."


See guys? That's why women are always complaining we don't communicate with them. Who knew they had their own language?!

But seriously, this ad not only confirms what we were previously discussing about Pepsi, it raises an interesting point about how advertisers of the 50's were beginning to realize that America had changed. That small town, traditional mom n' pop Norman Rockwell generation was giving way to an emerging post-war urban society.

Advertisers would need to navigate the complexities of this atomic age America to appeal to the emerging sophistication of its wants and desires.


Next week, using an article from an old issue of Art Director and Studio News as our guide, we'll examine how the ad industry strategized to appeal to women and men.

And we'll see if very much has changed in the last 50 years!

My Pepsi Ads Flickr set.

11 comments

  1. Hey Lief,
    My name is Shawn Richter, and I just wanted to say how much I've enjoyed being on the list over the last year or so. As to your observations, it's a similar theme that runs through the series "Madmen", recounting the 1960's heyday of Madison Avenue advertising firms. In the first couple of episodes, the lead character has to come to terms with the fact that they are no longer just advertising to men, and how does that affect the biz, etc. An interesting piece of television, to me, at least and one that links up with the pepsi ads from that period that you have posted here...

    Thanks again for all your hard work, in providing us all with such great art. Hopefully you'll keep it up for a long time to come!

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  2. Also, sorry about mispelling your name, Leif. Oops!

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  3. Hmmm. What's the ice skater showing him in return for that Pepsi? LOL You just have to love the subtle, implied sexuality of the classic ads! Thanks again for this blog, Leif! I look forward to another terrific year!

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  4. Hah! I had the exact same reaction that Joe did to that first Pepsi ad. You may think that is an ad geared to women, but I am sure men in the 1960s knew exactly how to read it.

    Joe, I was going to keep my own prurient views to myself until I saw that you had the audacity to go public. Thanks for paving the way!

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  5. Now if only a female reader would offer her perspective... then we'd have a better idea of how far in the gutter the gentlemens' minds are.

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  6. Good call, guys. Just what *is* she showing him? I think we all can figure that out. Add to that the victorian erotic symbolism of corset laces and the ad becomes even more suggestive and layered.

    And remember, appealing to women usually means appealing to their sense of how men are viewing them, not how they are viewing the world. i.e there's not a lot of female subjectivity in intention of the admakers.

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  7. My pleasure, David!!! :-) And "Thanks", Liza! Nice to know I'm not just a perv! LOL

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  8. Barbara Bradley asked me to post this comment on her behalf:

    'm sure that their were smiles at the Agency when they got "away" with the image. However, put yourself in the AD's place. How do you manage to make the image of the girl (complete with cute expression, neat legs, and an 18" waist), as large as possible in a horizontal space? I think it was a logical and good answer.

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  9. Shawn;

    Thanks for your kind words! I had a chance to see "Madmen" this past summer when we were in the States and I can certainly see what you mean. I have heard plenty of stories about the business in Canada during that same time period and I suspect it was very similar (though on a much smaller scale).

    Frankly, when I worked in-house at an ad agency during the 90's, things were STILL very much like that!

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  10. Hello.

    I just found your site about a month ago, and I have to say that you have opened my eyes to advertising and the beauty of 50's illustration.

    I realize that it was probably not your intention to showcase the change of how women are portrayed in advertisements in terms of their body image, but I'd like to say that after looking at these ads, I feel much better about myself, and I wish advertisements these days displayed similar body types to women anf girls instead of the stick figures that are used today.

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  11. Thanks for your comment, adria - i'm thrilled to hear that my little blog has provided an entré for you into the wonderful world of mid-century illustration. You're right that I hadn't intended to deal specifically with how women were portrayed, but its a great topic - and I may just explore it further since you've given me pause to consider it. ;-)

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