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Spank While You Sell:
Corporal punishment imagery in print advertising

By C. Farrell

In recent times some social historians have taken to interpreting a given time and place in terms of its advertising. Are the creative directors of advertising agencies, who are hardly typical citizens, really the people who most have their fingers on the pulse of a society? And if so, are they merely reflecting the society back at itself, or do their activities themselves help to change the collective perception?

At all events, it is certainly true that advertisements can sometimes -- perhaps unintentionally -- be revealing about how particular concepts are viewed and how they might relate to the contemporary zeitgeist in a particular culture.

And the concept of corporal punishment is no exception. In this feature we look at 15 US and UK press advertisements in which CP is pictured. What are they telling us about the attitudes of the period, and the place of CP in popular culture?

Click on each title in turn to see the advertisement in full and read the commentary. They are in roughly chronological order:

thumbnail 19th century: Power & Stuart Tobacco

thumbnail c.1900?: Atwood & Brigham's Chop and Oyster Café

thumbnail 1937: Post Office Speaking Clock

thumbnail 1945: Borden's Hemo Food Supplement

thumbnail 1940s: Ivory Bath Soap

thumbnail 1940s: Fletcher's Castoria Children's Laxative

thumbnail 1940s: Fletcher's Castoria Children's Laxative (again)

thumbnail 1948: Shinola Shoe Polish

thumbnail 1950s: Sanka Decaffeinated Coffee

thumbnail 1954: Liberty Mutual Insurance Company

thumbnail c.1960: Havoline Motor Oil

thumbnail 1960: European Cars

thumbnail 1960s: Cheez-It Cheese Crackers

thumbnail 1997: King of the Hill

thumbnail 2000: Virgin Megastores

See also:
Supplementary page 1 with 12 further images.

Supplementary page 2 with 5 further images and two video clips.  Main menu page

Copyright © C. Farrell 2003-2011
Page updated August 2011