Having spent the past few days digging through old magazines online, I feel comfortable to say that the world of advertising has become much more conservative since the 1930s. Most advertising scholars point to the “Your car is no nudist,” advertisement and note that nudity was not struck down or necessarily shied away from at the time. In this post I will be introducing my role in the upcoming project for Dr. McClurken’s Information Age as well as what my project group has been working on. So, I hope you are ready for a feast, as our project is a rather weighty matter.
With most working groups there is division of labor. Not everyone works on the same thing at the same time. It isn’t effective time management. Further, not everyone brings the same set of skills to the table. With that in mind, I was selected to handle the initial researching for our project. Before doing this project I had no idea what sort of magazines Google has put up for anyone to read and search through. The initial search for example ads was not easy, however. Keywords like “weight,” “skinny,” etc. did not yield too much, but I did get a closer look at an advertisement on this blog. When one enlarges the first advertisement, one can find the actual company name. Once I had the name, finding similar ads became far easier.

That's right ladies, with just a few more pounds your man can be handsome!

We decided that weight-gaining advertisements in the 1930s/40s would make for a fun and interesting project. How does this fit into the information age timeline? Well, granted the product certainly is not distributing information. There is something to looking critically at how such advertisements sell a company’s products. What is the use of language? Targeted audience? Images? Are male weight gaining products targeted at men or women who will tell their husbands/boyfriends/brothers to try the product. Thus, there is something of value to looking at a non-information centric product and digging one’s heels deep into the lingo and imagery of the period. Furthermore, this sort of product stands outside our cultural milieu. We might have some male weight gaining products, but they are sold as muscle enhancers, typically for body builders to appear more buff. The average reader today will more than likely look at these ads and remark about the differences in cultural values between 1930s and now. It’s a provocative product that not only will inspire a few laughs but also consider what qualifies as beauty, skinny, or glamorous. What these ads communicate is a set of esthetics which determine one’s beauty and perhaps even his/her societal value. One will lack social capital without the stunning, broad shoulders exhibited by the man pictured above.
As to sources, I found that most of the male-targeted ads were listed in popular science and popular mechanics. The writers and illustrators for the advertisements focused on informing skinny men that they would have no hope of a happy lady-filled existence without bulking up as much as twenty-five pounds. As ironized yeast apparently works quickly, the ads carry a sense of urgency, as if one needed to drop everything in order to lose weight, get the girl, and obtain a perfect life of smiles and…Perhaps I read a little too far into the advertisements, but when you read over so many you can’t help but wonder what the company is provoking the audience to believe.