The Top 75 Most Offensive Ads in Modern History

Classic advertising can act as a pop culture history book, but some of the chapters are more than a little shocking.

75. The Projection of a Perfect Life

In the 1950s, home slide shows were all the rage after vacations. Families would invite friends and relatives over for refreshments and some small talk, then dim the lights and pull out the projector to relive the blurry, out-of-focus glory of their trip to the Adirondacks or California coast.

This ad, for the Bell & Howell Headliner Color Slide Projector, features a woman in what can only be described as a torpedo bra. It’s hard to imagine her audience looking at anything but her cone-shaped chest extruding outward – it defies the laws of physics, really.

Sabrina, as the model is called, was at least given the courtesy of facing the same direction as the images she was shining onto a wall, but the star of the ad is her chest. It was 1959 and the bra-burning days were still ahead for her.

74. Pants With an Action Zone

The advice to learn something new every day is good: there’s a big world out there and so much information to acquire. For starters, in the 1960s or so, men’s pants referred to the front zipper area between legs as a snack sack. Who knew?

And Shempley’s Department Store in Paterson, New Jersey, they were ready to accommodate all those men of action who needed more room in their groin area for all that movin’ and shakin’ they were doing.

After all, did any man want to be the kind of guy who needed only an average-sized “snack sack”? Who wouldn’t want a reinforced crotch zone?! “A man of action needs pants of action!” Oh yeah, this man was on the go and didn’t want his appendage to get left behind. Thank goodness for Sansabelt and their Action Pants.

73. Ads That are Wrong on Every Level

There was a very controversial ad for Calvin Klein Jeans in 1980 staring a 15-year-old Brooke Shields in which she told the world that nothing came between her and the jeans. But Calvin Klein was far from the only company to suggest the sexualization of young women.

Look at this ad for Love’s Baby Soft perfume. It’s hard to tell how old the girl is in this photo, whether she’s a teenager or over the age of 18, but they’re clearly going for a very young look, between the rounded cheeks, the baby curls, the pouty mouth, the teddy bear and the tagline: “Because innocence is sexier than you think.”

This ad would never be approved today for the sheer reason that it kind of promotes a number of awful things: Pedophilia, underage sex, preying on especially young girls, etc.

The rest of the ad copy isn’t much better, saying the perfume is “that irresistible, clean-baby smell, grown-up enough to be sexy.” It’s about seven kinds of creepy is more like it.

72. Did You Wrap the Baby?

The creative producers of cellophane really wanted to show how important their product was. So much so, they compared it to the joy that comes with having a baby.

In this rather strange and probably dangerous ad, a stork is pictured carrying a content baby wrapped in plastic cellophane. Maybe there are tiny holes poked near the child’s mouth so it could breathe. One could only hope.

All we know is, this advertisement would be a field day for any Department of Social Services.

Although cellophane works to preserve foods, it probably doesn’t preserve babies. Perhaps a different approach would have been easier to swallow?

71. Barista Training to the Extreme

It’s a universal agreement that everyone loves a decent cup of coffee, and even those that don’t drink the stuff can appreciate the aroma wafting through the air.

Apparently, in the 1950s if a husband was served a cup of coffee that didn’t meet his stringent standards, his wife could expect a well-deserved spanking.

The mid-action pose of a man about to drop his hand on his visibly scared-looking wife is disturbing for a very long list of reasons, but was the overall message here that if you buy any coffee other than Chase & Sanborn you’ve given up your right not to be beaten?

Considering the product is buried in the corner and the domestic assault is the focal point, all signs are pointing to yes.

70. Did You Ever See an Advert More Offensive?

Imagine running into this ad as you flip through your morning paper. This bold advertisement was printed and released to the public decades ago, and aside from the fact that this is blatantly racist, this weight shaming ad was actually a scream for agricultural help.

The US Rice Council was determined to bring this magic grain stateside by any means. Unfortunately, this meant offending and grouping an entire race of people together into one rude stereotype.

Placing a juicy steak next to a heaping mountain of white rice speaks volumes to the portion control problem still experienced in America today.