There is no denying that using cute babies in advertising works. A 2011 research experiment published in the Marketing Bulletin academic journal showed that the use of a picture of a cute infant increased the response rate by 88 percent.
In the Wild West years of advertising—when doctors were used to promote tobacco brands—infants were deployed to promote a wide array of products, many of which are considered outrageous by today’s standards.
Here are some of the most disturbing advertisements that capitalized on the infant “cute” factor to sell products.
1. It is hard to believe now, but yes there was a time when babies wrapped in cellophane was used to promote the food packing material.
2. “Papa says it won’t hurt us,” but how smart is it really to have a toddler sleep with a revolver?
3. Yes, there was a time when you could advertise soda as a wholesome product for babies.
4. “Proud mothers, please forgive us if we too feel something of the pride of a new parent.” Philip Morris decided to compare the birth of a newborn with the launch of a new cigarette.
5. Of course, what stork doesn’t need to finish its cigarette before delivering a baby?
6. A toddler holding a razor would be unthinkable in today’s advertising.
7. “The malt in the beer supplies nourishing qualities that are essential at this time and the hops act as an appetizing, stimulating tonic,” claimed Blatz Beer, aiming its ads at new (presumably nursing) mothers.
8. Spam for babies? The World Health Organization recommends that infants don’t eat meat until they are at least 6 months old.
9. “Gee Mommy, you sure enjoy your Marlboros.”
10. “People are always telling me that smoking causes low birth weight. Talk about a win-win-win! An easy labor, a slim baby and the Full Flavor of Winstons!”