Copywriters didn’t pull punches
advertising to women

On the right, the headlines from the advertisements above

The body copy adds some amazing assertions…

  • Your presence can be repulsive to friends.
  • You can succeed socially without brains.
  • She carries a shocking slur on her daintiness.
Headlines from three advertisements targeting women

The cards are stacked against you says this advertisement
for Mum anti-perspirant 

The prod­uct is said to have been named “Mum”,  mean­ing “to keep silent”, as in the pop­u­lar phrase “Mum’s the word” Mum was orig­i­nal­ly sold as a cream in a jar and applied with the fin­ger­tips. The small com­pa­ny was bought by Bris­tol-Myers in 1931. (It may now be owned by Proc­ter & Gamble.)

The copy­writer informs the read­er that a wise young woman of the world” tells a young friend “in a con­fi­den­tial chat not long ago” that “you can suc­ceed social­ly with­out brains. You can get along with­out beau­ty. You can do with­out a sense of style.

“But there’s one thing you can’t pos­si­bly suc­ceed with­out. That is a qual­i­ty which every­one, men espe­cial­ly, likes to think of as essen­tial­ly fem­i­nine – the qual­i­ty of fresh­ness, sweet­ness, immac­u­late­ness of person.”

And this wise young woman then adds: “And I say unhesi­tat­ing­ly that the great­est sin­gle ene­my to this fem­i­nine qual­i­ty of per­son is under­arm per­spi­ra­tion odor. When you are care­less about this you are stack­ing the social cards against yourself.”

The second advertisement, with question mark strategically placed, is headlined:

How the truth would hurt if some girls knew what oth­ers think of them for neglect­ing under­arm per­spi­ra­tion. How their ears would burn with shame!”

The prod­uct,  Odo-ro-no anti-per­spi­rant, was so named because, appar­ent­ly, it “Nev­er Fails You”)

And the copy­writer con­tin­ued: “For your pres­ence can be repul­sive to friends even when you your­self don’t even dream that you’re guilty of offen­sive under­arm odor. And it’s a fault that con­fess­es itself. “For per­spi­ra­tion mois­ture in the con­fined armpit quick­ly forms an acid that ruins dress­es and turns friends away. Even your bath won’t save you, after a few minutes.”

Then the solu­tion to this prob­lem! “But Odor­ono, a physician’s for­mu­la, pro­tects you so com­plete­ly that your mind is free of all fear of offend­ing. And by check­ing, com­plete­ly, all under­arm mois­ture, it saves dress­es from ruinous stains.”

  • Odor­ono claimed: “Mil­lions of women…in 73 coun­tries all over the world…trust their charm only to Odorono.”
  • The claim fur­ther says Odor­ono “was approved by Good House­keep­ing and used by doc­tors and nurs­es everywhere.”
  • In 1934 you could also send 10₵ for a spe­cial intro­duc­to­ry bot­tle of Odor­ono with orig­i­nal san­i­tary appli­ca­tor.  Appar­ent­ly ship­ping was free!
  • To learn more about Odo-ro-no, and to review many more Odo-ro-no adver­tise­ments,  vis­it this excel­lent web­site:

In the third advertisement,
this time for Absorbine Jr., the copywriter proclaims that “The lovely Miss X of Montreal has— it’s politely called Athlete’s Foot”

The body copy then begins romantically.:

The poet’s line, “she walks in beau­ty like the night,” describes this young lady per­fect­ly. Wher­ev­er she enters, all eyes pay homage to her youth­ful loveliness.

But between her toes she car­ries a shock­ing slur on her dain­ti­ness. She has a nasty case of Athlete’s Foot.

At first it was a lit­tle itch. But it grew, and spread. The skin turned red, raw. Then dead-white and cracked open. Now she brave­ly hides it – but it has her worried. 

“And worse things are in store, unless the trou­ble is checked. For the per­ni­cious fun­gus, tinea tri­chophy­ton, which cause Athlete’s Foot, steadi­ly bores deep­er into the raw flesh. If neglect­ed, seri­ous, even fatal, infec­tions may follow.”

printers devil

Copy­writ­ing like this would be career-end­ing today. Not so in 1934 when these adver­tise­ments ran in Cana­di­an Home Jour­nal and oth­er mag­a­zines direct­ed to women. Polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness wasn’t an offense.

 Ath­lete’s Foot was so-named by not­ed copy­writer Arthur Kud­ner