Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Dutch Tough

Advertising is the true story of any age.

As odious as it may be, an ad is the essence of every story, myth, fact, aspiration, and definition available at it's creation.

The ad at left is from a 1978 issue of Playboy magazine. It's on page 54.

Now, the first 53 pages of the magazine are equally full of similar messages (the leather looking man, the bored looking woman), but this one about pipe tobacco stood out in particular.

First, of all the bored women that appear in these ads, the woman in the second photo looks challengingly bored. The male model looks like someone slapped a wig and makeup on an old jacket and gave it sexually criminal sentience.


Because, second of all, what the hell is going on in the first image? A.k.a. The one where the possibly same models are in Dutch colonist cosplay.

And as a subsection of the second part, why Dutch colonists? In an American magazine? For pipe tobacco? In 1978?

What the all around fuck?

Amphora, the tobacco company, is still in production. And there are people with YouTube videos about it. So good on them for longevity. But a surprising number of Playboy advertisers from the same issue include similarly long lasting companies like Gillette, Chrysler, Cuervo Gold.

Turns out though that Amphora may no longer be available in the United States.


But with the name free, a company called Evofem Inc. created a personal lubricant called Amphora in 2004.

But the pipe tobacco Amphora brand is owned by Imperial Tobacco Group plc, a HUGE company based in Bristol (of all places).

So why of all things was the image of Dutch colonialism was being marketed to Americans in 1978 via their pipe tobacco?

Most of the other tobacco ads are for cigarettes, and they are primarily concerned about tar.

There is also one ad that appears like a proto-feminists appeal to the kind of lesbian smokers who might read Playboy in the late 70s.

But it's hard to draw any conclusions, because there are no real comparisons in the book to either other pipe tobacco ads, or specifically Dutch colonial imagery.

So, going back a few years to see what else might be in the advertising might prove fruitful, about a decade earlier.

To June of 1968.

Because, the logic is, if this use of Dutch colonial imagery to sell pipe tobacco in a semi-dirty late 1970s men's magazine means what it looks like it means, then that is pretty fucked up.

***

Looking into magazine archives from time periods is more rewarding than any other kind of garbage diving.

Once upon a time, with full access to the archives of Newsweek magazine, many hours of upload waits or downtime were filled with trips through old magazines from the 1930s, 1980s, 1960s.

Having said that, now that the ability to digitize old collections is a reality, everyone needs to make it a priority to save and reproduce all media.

Far too many things get left behind when the media changes.

***

An early summer 1968 magazine is such a strange piece of history.

Only two months after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (but really a month to a month and a half in magazine production time) and already on the newsstand when Robert Kennedy is assassinated in California.



The very first ad is for gin, the second, malt liquor. Like the old saying goes, gin before malt liquor gets you fucked up quicker.

The smoking ads however have neither pipe tobacco or Dutch colonial imagery. They do however have weird father imagery and a hopeful focus on innovation and modernity.

Time to go back another decade.

***

On the very first page of the June 1958 Playboy magazine, there is an ad with loosely connected Dutch Colonial imagery.

The ad shows a man in a tuxedo holding a large parrot, surrounded by palm trees and two women, who are dressed in vaguely non-specific Pacific Island dress. It's not Dutch, but it's got Colonial written all over it. And the Dutch did have large colonies stretching all the way from the tip of Sumatra to New Guinea.

The ad even features a little Venus on the half shell with one of the two women decorating the James Bond/Don Draper original.

An interesting aside, the adjusted for inflation price of the After Six wash-and-wear jacket is $328.08.

The rest of the mag features no real Dutch Colonial imagery, or pipe tobacco ads, which is surprising. The Dutch Colonial theme is specific to the late 70s for reasons that will possibly become clear.

What is interesting about the late 50s Playboy compared to the 60s and 70s is that there is a lot more advertorial content in the 50s. With whole articles about cameras (conveniently for sale at low, low prices) in between pictorials of the the 1950s version of the girl next door and liquor ads. It's almost as if Playboy were a training manual for something.

Then there are other less disturbing things advertised like a one foot tall model of a human skeleton for only $2.98. With removable parts!

So once again, a whole issue of Playboy and no Dutch Colonial ads.

Lessons were learned, like "there are a surprising number of cigar ads with dads lighting up around their children", but for now it's back to 1978.

***

In 1978, the Dutch Colonial empire was in its final stages. Although Dutch Colonialism continues as the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the administration of Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, and other stolen lands; in 1978, refugees from former Dutch colonies moved to the Netherlands in waves. The migrants came both for jobs that would supply cheap labor to their former colonizers, but also to escape the political unrest left in the wake of their home countries' independence. Feeling underappreciated for heroically driving the Japanese military out of countries they had stolen fair and square, the scorned Dutch settlers stymied nascent democratic movements in the global South by force at first, and then economic domination (some of which continues to this day).

The US Northeast maintains a tenuous relationship with Dutch Colonialism in that it often gets mixed up with English colonialism in national myth, especially since their areas of colonization overlap in like New York and other foundational strongholds of European colonialism in North America.

Also, important places and figures in Dutch colonization share nomenclature with the Imperial Tobacco Group product line or brands purchased by Imperial Tobacco such as it's predecessor Commonwealth Brands, Inc. (formerly the Commonwealth Tobacco Company).

The infamous cigarette smoking baby on the internet that the Western world fetishized? From the former Dutch colony of Indonesia.

See, the Playboy magazines didn't have any Amphora ads, but newspapers and other sources do. Going back ten years in newspaper searches show Amphora advertising that employs certainly less cosplayish imagery. 1960s Amphora ads in general newspapers stress availability and price.

It would have been much harder to romanticize Dutch colonialism in the 1960s. The brutal repression of the Indonesian independence movement was still ongoing at the start of the decade.

In addition, this was a British-ish company marketing to an American audience, and unless the ad was specifically targeted to Northeast subcribers, it seems like a very narrow demographic that might find 17th century Dutch colonial cosplay enticing, but then again so is pipe smoking.

Plus, if there is a hetero woman alive that has ever had unpaid, non-coercive sex with a man who is actively smoking a pipe, she was a whaling shipman's wife in 1840s Nantucket, or, as the ad implies, the bonnet wearing wife of a European colonist somewhere in the Dutch empire circa 1500 - 1700.

What the image does recall today, however, is a million old men in a million old movies, about a woman protected only by her own boredom from a man who finds appealing the idea of taking things that don't belong to him. This is definitely a recurring theme in all those old Playboy. Not just the idea of women as for sale, because most of the things for sale are products like liquor, tobacco, and tobaccinated liquor. With a model or two promised by mere association with the product and the fine print that reads "woman not included."

***

Skipping ahead ten years, the difference is incredible, particularly as it comes to Tobacco advertising, which is still mostly allowed in the June 1988 issue of Playboy magazine, but is thoroughly in the grips of the Marlboro man.

There are also ads for Kools, Kents, Camels, Merit Ultra-Lights, Salems, and Winstons, all of which employ some working/middle class white guy at leisure. The Salem ad is a nude woman, her face and body out of frame, melting a cigarette pack sized block of ice on her neck with the brand logo frozen inside. The Marlboro ad which has not only seized on the colonial imagery, in this case the Cowboy "taming" the wild west (which in the 1980s meant horses for some reason).

The Marlboro Man as a concept had only a decade left in use by the Philip Morris company when they ran this ad in Playboy.

Cigarette ads like these were on their last legs.

Much like pipe tobacco in the 1970s. In a 2005 Washington Post report by Peter Carlson, head of the Pipe Tobacco Council, Norman Sharp, said "In 1970, Americans bought 52 million pounds of pipe tobacco. In 2004, they bought less than 5 million pounds."

5 million pounds of pipe tobacco may still be more than you can carry at a full sprint, but it's definitely not "advertise in Playboy" money.

But what does a creepy ad about the kind of pipe tobacco rooted in the Dutch colonial tradition have to do with a fictional advertising cowboy?

Philip Morris is the largest tobacco company in the world. Imperial Tobacco Group, Inc. is number four. In between are British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International.

Japan Tobacco, Philip Morris, British American Tobacco, and Imperial Tobacco Group all started within ten years of each other in the waning years of the 19th century, and the earliest days of the 20th (Although, technically, Japan Tobacco spun off from a government monopoly on tobacco production and an independent company formed from the Asia Pacific division of RJ Reynolds, now a subdivision of British American, in the 90s -- coincidentally around the same time the Marlboro man was retired).

All of this built on a crop stolen from the colonized people of South America, built into a global industry on the backs of slaves, and sustained to the present day on the profits of a destructive and unhealthy activity.

And when it comes to accessing that past for the purposes of brand identity, these companies have been reliably happy to do so (albeit less so at times when it is politically expedient to minimize the systems' worst abuses). But when it comes to making amends for the health damages its products cause, compensating all that stolen labor, and paying off the debt owed to the indigenous developers of the product; all that history don't count for shit.

Also, old Playboys are fucking creepy.


Check out more Vintage Advertising here.
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