What Vintage Coffee Ads Tell Us about History

Posted by alicebeth on 28 March 2013 | Comments

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vintage coffee ads


I've always been fascinated by the progression of popular advertisements over time. What better way to chart the changing faces of society than by reviewing the way in which the ad industry reaches out to us?


Whether we like it or not, it's the advertising industry that goes through the motions, does the research, and really gets to the bottom of what appeals to consumers. This is why taking a look at past advertisements allows us to step into the mindframe of our ancestors, even if just for a moment. 


On hand, this method of sifting through history sends up back into simpler time, when advertisers needn't rely on half-naked models, 500 flavors, or pure shock value in order to get a message across.


In other cases, the message is a bit darker- even borderline creepy. Sexism, gender roles, and even racism were often a running theme in vintage advertisements- as you'll see with some of these examples.


So grab your cup and get ready to step back into time with these charming (and/or creepy) vintage advertisements for commericial coffee.


 coffee romance

Ah, love. Remember when arranging a date was as easy as meeting up for a cup o' Joe? Simple, sweet, and easy enough to cut the date short ("Check, please") or ask for a refill and talk all night. Sometimes I can't help but feel like dating "back in the day" was just easier.



Vintage women drinking coffee


The "I like my coffee how I like my....." bit. In this setting, I think it works rather nicely. Looking at these two women sharing an intimate moment over a warm cup of caffiene makes me want to call my best friend and follow suit. It also makes me want to rock that adorable retro haircut.



fresh coffee


Here's where it starts getting a liiiittle creepy. "It brings home the right coffee or it gets the hose again!" Nothing like scaring women into consumer-based submission, right gals? Let's be glad that (smart) advertisers have steered away from this kind of degrading marketing ploy. 

vintage coffee ad floating head


I like this one particularly for the enigmatic floating head. What happened to this poor woman's body? Did it get sucked up by that can of Chase & Sanborn? Will this happen to me if I buy this awkwardly-packaged coffee? So many unanswered questions.

sexist vintage coffee ad

Wow! An advertisement so insulting that even a man would get offended! While it's refreshing to see that women weren't the only victims of gender-targeted "jokes," this is pretty bad. Also, why would any woman want to buy a product that implies their men are stupid?


vintage coffee ad


Gotta love the "I'm a big fat jerk until my first cup of coffee!" line. Mostly because it's true (I can vouche.) Still, this ad only kind of hit the mark in my opinion, considering Mr. Perfect already looks, well, perfect before he gets his first sip. All he needs is a couple of songbirds on his shoulders.



vintage coffee ad


Oh my heavens! That shopping trip was such a struggle before this coffee came along! By golly, the former stress of the coffee aisle used to throw me into a downright tizzy. Thanks for saving me from the complexities of womanhood, Nescafe!


racist vintage ad


As a coffee grower living upon the fertile soil of the tropics, I understand what they were going for here. But did they have to make it look so...racist? These sullen figures look overworked, underfed, and utterly exhausted. Makes me glad Panama Joe operates on a strict fair trade philosophy. 

Dharma Initiative


We'll end on a positive note with this particular gem. I love, love, love this ad. Probably because it reminds me so much of out values here at Panama Joe. From the no-nonsense photo of fresh, wholesome coffee beans to the genuine and straight-forward text, this ad whispers (not screams) of quality, flavorful coffee you can trust.


No gimmicks, no overbearing grins, no creepy implications or guilt-packed recommendations. Just coffee.