One Of The Biggest Con Jobs In Advertising History

Mid-20th century, Lysol disinfectant — because of the illegality of female contraceptives — was the #1 selling “feminine hygiene” product.

1. Forgetting the obnoxious locks for a second, read that copy: “…instead of blaming him when married love begins to cool, she should question herself.”

“Germs” meant “Sperm”


This branding move by Lysol was one of the most devious marketing ploys in advertising history.
At the time, female contraceptives were mostly illegal and not readily available. So Lysol moved into the very lucrative void and became the #1 selling feminine hygiene product.

On the surface, the ads sold Lysol as a douche. But just below the surface, the ads hinted at another benefit: birth control.

In her book, Devices and Desires: A History of Contraceptives in America, historian Andrea Tone, PhD, notes that in their early ads, Lysol featured testimonials from prominent European “doctors.” Later investigation by the American Medical Association showed that these experts did not exist.

“The fraud of the Lysol douche was a byproduct of illegality,” Tone says. “Because birth control couldn’t be advertised openly, manufacturers would use euphemisms to refer to birth control. They took advantage of consumers’ hopes.”

Two of the code words were, “daintiness” (odor) and “germs” (sperm).

Now read how insidious the copy was on these ads.

2. 1933. DOOMSDAY…CALENDAR FEAR. Note all the cap “FEAR”s.

3. 1930s. Flawed jewel.

4. 1935. Here’s the woman you could be.

5. 1945. Yep, his wandering eye is YOUR fault.

6. 1948. See ya, tuts. Note the fake doctors.

7. 1949. Beware of the one intimate neglect that can engulf you in marital grief

8. 1949. “OK Bob, give me…’indifferent.’”

9. 1951. Don’t risk becoming another you!

11. 1956. “…the one unforgivable fault.”

13. 1959. “…won’t harm your delicate insides.” (almost said “vagina”)

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