The Golden Age of the Advertisement

September 14th, 2006

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Advertising copy today is too x-treme, too in-your-face, too poorly done to elevate beyond self-parody. Have you seen the ads for the Gillette Fusion? It’s no surprise The Onion predicted the five-blade razor a year before it debuted at the Super Bowl. It’s time to return to a simpler era, the Era of Burma-Shave.

Burma-Shave was a brushless shave foam from Minneapolis known for its unique and eloquent roadside ad campaigns. Starting in 1927, the company installed thousands of billboards arranged to form simple humorous refrains extolling the benefits of using its product. The poems quickly became more complex and creative, forming a lasting record of the social world of the Great Depression:

Within this vale / Of toil / And sin / Your head grows bald / But not your chin / Burma-Shave
Careless / Bridegroom / Dainty bride / Scratchy whiskers / Homicide / Burma-Shave
With glamour girls / You’ll never click / Bewhiskered / Like a / Bolshevik / Burma-Shave

What are we saying to future generations with a duck that hocks for health insurance?