Vintage Marketing Fails: The “Good Ole Fashioned Science” Edition (Part 2)

More vintage medical marketing fails?

More vintage medical marketing fails.

Read Part 1 here, if you haven’t already… or don’t. Do what you want.

Either way, here’s 11 more vintage medical marketing fails. If nothing else, these hilariously horrifying advertisements at least serve to show that although the 20th century was by far the most productive hundred years ever in terms of scientific progress, we still had (and have) a long way to go. medical marketing

1. We’re Not Saying Smoking is Going to Cure What Ails You, But… fails

I’m going to do one of these lists (or ten) focused entirely on the glut of deceptive, dangerous, and outright appalling cigarette marketing campaigns from last century. But I can’t resist including this ad on this list.

Holy cow.

This is god-awful in a way that beggars actual description. And the worst part might be the fact that the argument’s flaw stands out more vividly than that woman’s jacket. “Smoking our cigs MAY not actively reverse whatever disease you have, but you should smoke them anyway… JUST IN CASE THEY ACTUALLY DO. After all, it’s been scientifically PROVEN that our cigarettes are less irritating to your nose and throat. Also, science.”

2. “May Be Used by Any Intelligent Person”

These are gross on their face. That grossness is compounded, I believe, by the fact that there’s four different sizes.

Pro tip: “Piles” are hemorrhoids. I had to look that up.

And I’m regretting it now.

3. Like a Jackhammer for a Finishing Nail

This is a great example of the approach Big Pharma used to—and still continues to— take in their marketing.

So, here’s an ad for a drug that keeps your child from puking. Fine.

But, do you know what Thorazine (the trade name for Chlorpromazine) is usually prescribed for?

Here’s the partial list: Psychotic disorders, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.

That’s basically the equivalent of your grandma asking you for a cup of half-caf and you offering her a Scarface-sized mound of cocaine instead.

4. No, Man, that Hat TOTALLY Looks Good On You

This one kind of speaks for itself. I actually looked around the interwebs a little for any information on this thing, but I couldn’t find much. I’m curious how it works. I’m also curious about what it’s made of.

My favorite part is the sheer laziness of the headline. “New Kind of Hat.” That lacks the pizzaz of almost every other advertisement from this era.

Not exactly your A-game, Alois.

5. When the Cure is Worse than the Malady

In case this isn’t obvious, prostatitis is the inflammation of—you guessed it—the prostate.

“Gentle vibration.” “Soothing heat.” “Scientifically designed.”

Not one part of this scenario is going to turn out okay.

6.“No Flies On Me”

Is your baby covered in bugs?

Have no fear. Black Flag is here.

Just spray every inch of your house down with a highly toxic blend of insecticide that “stays on walls, floors, and doorways to keep on killing flies for weeks.”

Seems safe.

7. The Other You medical marketing

So, you’re a female. Which means that, a priori, you are gross. For all the days in the month where you aren’t required to stand above the grass mat in the Unclean Shed your hubby built for you in the backyard, you’re going to need to do a little cleaning up.

Specifically, you have germs. You know, down there. Germs everywhere. You’re gonna need to use Lysol disinfectant on that noise.

Otherwise, your marriage is over.

“Lysol: You’re Gross, Because SCIENCE.”

8. Safe To Tissues

Just when things seemed like they couldn’t get any worse than #7, in rolls Lysol’s competition to further bottom out the feminine hygiene conversation.

The worst three words in this thing?

“Grave womanly offense.”

Body-shaming at its pinnacle.

9. A Better Start in Life

I am perfectly willing to admit that I am pretty sure this one’s not real.

I hope it’s not real.

Is it real?

It’s real, isn’t it?…

Anyway, I can’t do justice to this literary triumph of junk science, so I’ll just put this here in case the type’s too small:

“How soon is too soon?

“Not soon enough. Laboratory tests over the last few years have proven that babies who start drinking soda during that early formative period have a much higher chance of gaining acceptance and ‘fitting in’ during those awkward pre-teen and teen years. So, do yourself a favor. Do your child a favor. Start them on a strict regimen of sodas and other sugary carbonated beverages right now, for a lifetime of guaranteed happiness.”

My favorite claim: “Gives body essential sugars.”

Man, that’s rich.

10. If You Love Your Children…

Here’s a little knowledge for your mind grapes. Margarine was invented in 1813 by Napoleon’s personal chef as a butter substitute for soldiers and “the lower class.” In America, it started gaining popularity in the 1950s, which alarmed the dairy industry. The one advantage butter producers had is that butter is yellow, and margarine is white… which reminded people of lard and made it generally visually unappetizing.

When margarine manufacturers started dying their product yellow, the dairy industry freaked out. They even got legislation pushed through that made it illegal to dye margarine yellow. The workaround for the margarine producers was to include a bag of yellow dye with the margarine so you could mix it yourself.

Eventually, the legislation was repealed. But the war, it seems, still rages.

Side note: Why does that poor kid have to eat tomatoes for breakfast? That seems a little arbitrary.

11. One of These Things is Not Like the Other 

The German drug company Bayer started marketing Heroin in 1895 as a “non-addictive” substitute for morphine.

That didn’t work out so well.

Is your living room rug a little dusty?


You have two options.

One, get out the vacuum.

Or two, burn the whole friggin’ house down.

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medical marketing fails