Hilarious early deodorant ads warn women of the romantic implications of body odour

'Men can be such awful gossips!' Hilarious early deodorant ads warn women of the romantic implications of body odour

By
Tamara Abraham

PUBLISHED:

19:56 GMT, 23 August 2012

|

UPDATED:

21:48 GMT, 23 August 2012

Applying deodorant for most people today is as important to their daily routine as brushing their teeth.

But a series of advertisements from magazines in the Twenties and Thirties on Smithsonianmag.com demonstrate a hilariously aggressive hard-sell in a bid to persuade women that they needed to address their body odour.

Published just a few decades after deodorant was invented, around 1888, they warn women that they will be social outcasts unless they invest in products from Mum or Odorono.

smithsonianmag.com

Playing on female insecurity: A series of ads from magazines in the Twenties and Thirties demonstrate a hilariously aggressive hard-sell in a bid to persuade women that they needed to address their body odour

'Don't let your dress offend with armhole odor,' warns one, while another reads: 'Wake up Mary! It's a grand old world, and you're missing it.'

The concept of exploiting female insecurity was the brainchild of James Young, an employee of New York advertising agency J Walter
Thompson Company.

His first deodorant ad, for Odorono, appeared in a 1919 edition of Ladies Home Journal.

It read: 'Within the Curve of a Woman’s arm. A frank
discussion of a subject too often avoided.'

But though it would prove to be hugely successful and much-imitated by rivals, the initial reaction to the ad could not have been worse for Young.

smithsonianmag.com

Lonely girl: One advertisement, from 1937, reads: 'Wake up Mary! It's a grand old world, and you're missing it'

smithsonianmag.com

smithsonianmag.com

Social outcasts: One warns that a woman may not find romance if she has 'armhole odor' (left), while another, in a 1939 ad (right), tells of a poor woman who is 'beautiful but dumb'

People were so insulted by the ad, that many of the women he knew stopped talking to him, and around 200 Ladies Home Journal readers cancelled their subscriptions.

'This was still very much a Victorian society. Nobody talked about perspiration, or any
other bodily functions in public'

Juliann
Silvulka, a 20th-century historian of American advertising at Waseda
Univesity in Tokyo, Japan, told Smithsonianmag.com: 'This was still very much a Victorian society.

'Nobody talked about perspiration, or any
other bodily functions in public.'

Regardless, the numbers spoke for themselves, and Odorono's sales soared by 112per cent over the next 12 months.

Controversial: James Young's first ad, for Odorono appeared in a 1919 edition of Ladies Home Journal

Controversial: James Young's first ad, for Odorono appeared in a 1919 edition of Ladies Home Journal

smithsonianmag.com

Insulting: Though Young's ad concept would prove to be hugely successful and much-imitated by rivals, the initial reactions could not have been worse

By the Thirties, the ads were more
aggressive still. By this point, Mum and Nonspi were in on the action,
publishing lines such as: 'Beautiful but dumb. She has
never learned the first rule of long lasting charm.'

ODORONO: HOW A DEODORANT EMPIRE WAS BORN

The first deodorant product was the brainchild of Edna Murphey, the daughter of a Cincinnati surgeon who had invented an anti-perspirant product to prevent his hands getting sweaty during operations.

She was inspired to try it on her
underarms after noticing how sweaty people were at an exposition she
visited in Atlantic City in 1912.

Not long afterwards, with the help of a $150 loan from her grandfather, the Odorono company was born.

She rented a booth at the same
Atlantic City exposition to promote her deodorant product, and after a
shaky start, managed to generate customers from across the U.S.

Of course, deodorant brands needed
all the help they could get to sell the product at the time. Though it
banished any offending smell it was an unpleasant product to use.

According to Smithsonianmag.com, the active ingredient, aluminium chloride, needed to be kept in an acid suspension in order to work. The acid, though was irritating to underarm skin and damaged clothing.

The product was red, which stained clothing, and was also awkward to apply.

'Odorono customers were advised to avoid shaving
prior to use and to swab the product into armpits before bed, allowing
time for the antiperspirant to dry thoroughly,' Smithsonianmag.com read.

Mum's cream deodorant was little better – it had a strange smell, many complained, and was sticky and greasy to wear.