Beyond belief: a new Charles Saatchi tome reveals advertising’s dark past
There was a brief spell at the turn of the century when rediscovered retro imagery provided a startling reminder of the sins of the past. A treasure trove of advertising archives surfaced online, bringing a thrilling schadenfreude that allowed us to balk piously at the blatant ignorance, sexism, bigotry and pure wrong-headedness of old school advertising.
In recent years, we’ve had Mad Men weaving a compelling narrative out of this particular mire, and it’s safe to say that the intersection of old-fashioned ignorance and what was then ultra-modern media still holds a morbid fascination. Charles Saatchi’s latest compendium pulls together the best of the worst, complete with typically pithy dismissals.
What's saddest of all – as a glimpse at the trending social media of the day regularly reveals – is that such attitudes are not as safely confined to history as we might like, meaning that Beyond Belief fails to make you feel better about yourself.
The second chapter explores laughably bold cigarette adverts; for example, Pall Mall's claim that their longer 'smooth' cigarette were healthier are they filtered out the harsh chemicals.
Children were often used by Marlboro to promote smoking as a family activity.
Beyond Belief, by Charles Saatchi, £25, published by Booth-Clibborn Editions. For more information, visit the publisher’s website
Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.
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