Celebrating the 1967 Summer of Love … of Advertising

Fifty years ago, thousands of young people migrated west to gather in Golden Gate Park and … stare at their phones. No! Of course not. In 1967, there was no internet. No email. No text messages with animated GIFs. Convincing people to use a new product or service (as we like to do in advertising) was a very different art form back then.

Here at Firewood, our headquarters are a short bike ride from Haight Street and the epicenter of the counterculture movement. As the city around us winds down its milestone anniversary celebrations of the Summer of Love, we wanted to look at 1967 advertising to see what’s changed—and what’s stayed the same.

To truly evoke the era’s freewheeling spirit, put on Hair, the musical, and braid a few flowers in your hair. Now let’s look at some vintage ads.

“These new jars are something else!”

Photo: classic_film on flickr

Twist-off lids, you guys—groundbreaking. This Kraft ad features bright colors, exclamation points, and “plenty of spoon-room from top-to-bottom.” Short phrases are scattered throughout and include memorable repetition: “No notches, no corners, no digging.”

  • Still stylish: Food labels with “nothing to hide”
  • Worth trying: Attributing “decorator design” to an unlikely object (say, a jam lid)

(Sidebar: Most discussions of ’60s advertising require a mention of AMC’s Mad MenWe approve of any character-driven drama that explores advertising, women in the workplace, and the challenges of being a genius, depressive lady-killer. Great clothes, great dialogue. Haven’t seen it? Start here. You’re welcome.)

“A masterful job of proving ourselves wrong”

Photo: atticpaper on Pinterest

There’s a reason these Volkswagen ads are famous—they are stocked with memorable images and emotive storytelling. They set a standard of advertising excellence that we continue to emulate today. “To those of you who expected something fancier, sorry.”

  • Impressive design: The expert execution (true for most late-’60s VW ads) stands out in a crowded print marketplace
  • Impressive voice: “To those of you who …” is repeated over and over in the copy; pulling a reader into the story

“Avocado, the ‘go-with’ color”

Photo: Whitcher Plumbing & Heating on Pinterest

There is so much to say about the “bold look” that “starts with avocado” in this Kohler ad for bathroom fixtures. The taxidermy butterflies on the wall. The wood paneling. The illustrated character’s striped pants and patterned shirt which coordinates perfectly with … her bathroom tile.

  • Still modern: Avocados, bidets (!)
  • Not modern at all: “Send 10 cents for our new brochure.”

“The most exciting eye-liner since eye-liner”

Photo: r.ebay.com on Pinterest; from Life Magazine

Makeup ads haven’t changed much in the last five decades (though it’s slightly easier to pull off a perfectly lined cat’s eye now, thanks to YouTube). Here, Max Factor’s “flashing new, dashing new” eye makeup can do a lot “for your eyes and you.” All it takes is extra shine.

  • Stylish look: The lips, the brows, the fake lashes
  • Unstylish design: It looks like a piece of paper is stuck to the woman’s face

“Add miles to your smiles”

Photo from mustangattitude.com

“Be one of the only three girls in the world with a Mustang to match your lipstick.” Yes, that really happened. This marketing gimmick gives readers the chance to win a car plus a lipstick in “high-gear lip colors” including “Defroster” (which appears to be beige; gross). Empowering? Jury’s out.

  • Still cool: “Revved-up shades” of lipstick
  • Not so cool: Car-colored lipstick, long-form ad writing, Tussy cosmetics

In summary

Advertising (and fashion) has changed significantly since 1967, but there’s much that has stayed the same. Bold design and strong storytelling will always grab attention, and it’s what we at Firewood build into everything we deliver, from strategy decks to social media posts.

So thank you, 1967, for your day-glo colors, magic mushrooms, and Mustang-hued lipsticks. Thank you, internet, for memorializing advertising concepts from now until forever. Thank you, Mad Men (big props to Peggy Olson), for proving that a job in advertising can be a noble pursuit.

And thank you, dear reader, for reading. You may now return to your GIFs.