Friday, 2 October 2015

Selling Ancient Egypt

This week I have been doing some research into early twentieth century adverts which featured ancient Egypt as a selling ploy.  Unsurprisingly, quite a few originated from the period of Tutankhamen's tomb discovery which sparked a great love affair with not only the Tut himself, but also anything ancient Egyptian.  

It has been interesting to explore how the products that were advertised were linked to commonly perceived virtues associated with ancient Egypt during that period, for example, themes of beauty, glamour and quality are consistently explored in the adverts.  

Beauty products tapped into the idea of ancient Egyptian women as being "mysterious' and 'youthful' and adverts played on the idea that the civilisation were privy to deeply hidden secrets which allowed them to maintain this youthfulness.  Through the depiction of radiant, young Egyptian women alongside images of the product being marketed, there was a implied suggestion that by buying the brand, the purchaser could also become privy to the secrets of the ancients.

Palmolive frequently used ancient Egypt in their adverts for a variety of products which included soap, cream, powder,vanishing cream, shampoo and talcum powder.  One advert depicts Cleopatra reclining on a bed; in the background are two servants apparently concocting a mysterious potion.  Out of the vapours appear the image of Palmolive soap. "The great queen who reigned centuries ago" states the advert, "was one famous user of Palm and Olive oils - perhaps she pictured the day when modern science would combine them for universal toilet use".


Ancient Egypt was also linked to the concept of purity as evidenced in an advert for Sunlight Soap.  

"Sunlight Soap is always pure" declared the advert alongside the image of Egyptian women washing their clothes with the pyramids in the background. 
Tobacco companies also took to ancient Egypt to extol the pleasures of smoking their particular brand of cigarettes.  The inclusion of a beautiful young 'royal' ancient Egyptian woman in the Egyptian Deities advert opposite suggests a certain elegance and glamour to the product.  The wording also declares the brand are for "People of culture and refinement."  Another advert shown below for the same company portrays a statue on a throne-like seat and alongside it is a  contemporary photograph of a young lady seated royally on a draped chair.  The concept couldn't be clearer - smoke Egyptian Dieties and you too can feel not only like a King or Queen, but an ancient Egyptian King or Queen at that!!!


The idea of high quality can also be seen portrayed in advertising for other brands.  For example, Miltiades Cigarettes uses the sphinx in its royal headress as its logo, whilst Melachrino goes one further by using the goddess Maat alongside the tag-line "Melachrinos set the standard of cigarette quality".


Interestingly, companies would even use the concept of ancient Egypt even when the brand blatantly conflicted with what it was selling.  Take this early advert for Murad cigarettes.  Ancient Egyptian statues of Anubis, Egyptian furniture and architecture, and an Egyptian headress are all used to advertise Turkish cigarettes!


The use of ancient Egypt as a marketing tool continues to this day and the same concepts of quality and beauty are still important themes for advertisers. 

Take for example the Panasonic Lumix advert with its cleverly animated Anubis statue (click advert).

My personal favourite is the 1989 advert for Vaseline Intensive Care lotion where a mummy unwraps itself in a museum to reveal a beautiful young woman beneath the linen (click advert).  The Bangles "Walk Like An Egyptian" gives the advert an added thumbs up!!!





***Watch this space as I go off in search of ancient Egyptian inspired products and feature personal reviews on them***





1 comment:

  1. I love the artwork in Egyptian-themed Palmolive ads. Soap companies in general used to have the most beautiful advertisements, almost frame-worthy.

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