Thursday, December 29, 2005
Shampoos of Ages Past
I have ties to the salon industry, so I know a lot about shampoos. But what I want to talk about today is the Shampoos of Ages Past.
I grew up in the 70s and 80s, but I had parents and grandparents that were very involved in my upbringing, so I was exposed to a lot of things that many kids my age weren't. I remember most of the stories my father's parents told of WWII (and I have them on tape).
My father's mother was an advertiser's dream. She read all the ads in her ladies' magazines and seemed to believe every one. So, of course, we used a lot of Breck and Prell shampoo when we were at Grandma's house. Grandma was also a firm believer in Creme Rinse (hair conditioner) and happily, Breck made that too!
Breck was famous for the Breck Girls. They would get various pretty girls or movie actresses to pose for a painted portrait and then triumphantly trumpet that their hair was thanks to Breck (it usually wasn't).
Prell used pretty girls, but advertised that their shampoo was different because it was rich and green and was a thick gel! And people bought into that, too.
What people didn't know then was that both formulas were very caustic and horrible for the hair.
Incidentally, I got Grandma to deviate once and buy me a red bottle of "Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific!" so I can't judge her. I was enticed by all the television ads where a woman is flouncing down the street, and men stop her (and almost haul her off the sidewalk) saying in amazement, "Gee! your hair smells terrific!" I figured if that many men were impressed by the smell, it must be something else! It wasn't. But that's when I realized how effective advertising was.
Another time she bought me "Body on Tap" shampoo because she grew tired of my begging. Although it was advertised as having beer in it, I'd challenge anyone to find it. The commercials featured very coy people wagging a finger at the screen and telling you "Now remember, don't drink it!" As if! The stuff was shampoo, and that's all it was. Anyone who drank it would be blowing bubbles out their butts for weeks.
Then there was Wella Balsam which had the fragrance of Pine-Sol. Your hair smelled like a clean toilet!
I love how pretentiously comical the old ads are, and how easily they preyed on the weak and uneducated consumer of that time. Our consumers today are much more sophisticated, and these old ads would go over like a lead balloon.
You had a sampling of the Breck Girls at the top (does anyone recognize Erin Gray of the TV series Buck Rogers?) Now here are my favorites:
The Prell ads:
Obviously this was such a miracle that women and girls were in hysterics over it. These ladies at the top look as if they just got out of a charasmatic tent revival meeting! I don't know how the young lady below can contain herself; valium, perhaps?
As you can see, another joyous group of women are celebrating the arrival of Prell (which is cleverly spelled out in green gelled letters). At the top, we have a woman straight off the set of The Sound of Music. Nearby, a brunette is smirking with the secret knowlege of Prell's Perfection. But best of all, we have the beautiful-but-down-to-earth blond looking to the skies and thanking God himself for her beautiful hair. Who knew that Prell was divinely inspired?
Here we discover that hair can be younger-looking. Now, I don't know about you, but I've never looked at a woman and said "Wow, she sure looks young, but her hair gives her away..." This is really tapping into the "fear of aging", isn't it? Again, the woman is thanking God himself for her hair. In fact, she looks so excited, I think she's about to burst into song!
Just in case you weren't sure, we have all elements combined in this one ad. Prell is fabulous! Women are still worshipping it! In fact, there may be a Church of Prell somewhere near you! Why, young bathing beauties use it! Don't you want to have radiantly alive hair, too? Even the stodgy, practical redheaded business woman is cracking a smile!
Of course when I hear phrases like "radiantly alive" and "hair" together, I think of Medusa. But not the consumer of the 1950s and 60s! Heck no! They want to worship at the Church of Prell, too!
And my grandmother (sensible soul though she was) bought it hook, line, and sinker. Just as most people did back then. Many of us who are, or have been, in advertising salivate for those days.