The subtle cues in a simple advert for bleach
It doesn’t look subtle to modern eyes, but there are a couple of subtle tugs built into this advert.
For a start, the housewife doesn’t look frazzled, as she would on television until introduced to the product. Instead she’s in mod clothes, with her freshly set mod hair, looking relaxed and happy as she does her chores.
The addition of the skipping girl attaches to the ‘that means germ-free!’ tag line, reminding the reader that it doesn’t do just to have everything looking clean: it must be sterilised if you have children in order to protect them.
The text subtly reminds us to buy two bottles one for the lav and one for the kitchen. Why can’t one bottle be used in both places? Well, it suits Lever Brothers better if you buy two, obviously. But also, it subtly implies, the germs are different in the kitchen and the bathroom. Don’t let the two mix. You need two bottles.
The final tug is the last image, the housewife with her bottle of Domestos, looking for all the world like she’s going to drink it. This product has a nice smell, it hints, even though it doesn’t. You’ll enjoy using it, it presents, even though you won’t. And it’s safe around children, it shows, even though it isn’t. All very subtle.
Meanwhile, a bottle is only one shilling and threepence, is glass, and you’ll get twopence back if you return the bottle to the grocer you bought if from. Since lorries arrive full from the depot at a modern supermarket and leave to return empty, one would think that this old system to reduce waste would be easier now than it was in 1964. Apparently not.