Those who remember the slogan, “Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco,” probably recall the early days of television hucksterism when Betty Furness sold refrigerators simply by opening an appliance door. She wore an apron over her housewife’s dress.
Gone. All gone. The debate now ensues whether the Victoria’s Secret underwear show is a mild form of pornography and what exactly it is designed to sell. Tall models wearing garments men would be ashamed to ask for in the store, but mincing along a runway in that one-foot-in-front-of-the-other manner that tends to alarm the gluteus muscles battling one another to keep up. The struggle is ill-disguised by the apparel designated for the event. And you recall, much more recently than the Lucky Strike ad, there was a moment when Brooke Shields was estopped from suggesting that nothing came between her and her Calvin Klein jeans. How quaint.
If any mode of advertising demarks our time, though, it is probably the automobile ad. Cars are now advertised for their horsepower and are shown speeding along highways, spinning out in dusty arabesques, racing pell mell through crowded city streets, the heck with the speed limits and the environmentalists.
A poor housewife is suddenly beset by a monster. It threatens her and wrecks half of the house before she quells it with a broom stick, forces it back into the garage and finally down into the hood of the car. Her last words to her departing husband, “You forgot to lock the car again.” In other words, there is a monster under the hood so powerful it sometimes gets out and terrorizes the house. As hubby streaks out of the driveway in his new Mercedes, the voice-over informs us of the hundreds of horsepower endowing this automobile.
But the unconscious irony is left to the Cadillac ad. A man wearing a tie and a hat seats himself in a subway car and glances out the window at the wall advertisement for a long-gone Cadillac — one of those graceful, finned creatures that looks a block in length, probably out of the Seventies. As the subway accelerates, the car advertisement flickers by and gradually metamorphoses from the old model into a new 2003 one. It is no longer the sleek graceful vehicle it once was; it is boxy, similar in shape to economy cars costing a third its price. And the man has evolved also. No hat now as he debarks the subway looking at the current car. And no tie. A white shirt is open at the collar. Like the car, he has evolved from a gentleman to a guy.
You have to be a certain age to appreciate the unconscious irony of the Cadillac ad, the unintended consequence of illustrating how things once were and what they have become.
You probably have to know instinctually what L. S. M. F. T. stands for. And you have to wonder as they mince down the runway: do women really wear those things?