Not exactly a barrel of laughs. So I was expecting a pretty gloomy bunch of ads. But what I got was a mix of British and American ads, a bit on the patronising side I grant you, but full of glamour, romance and helpful hints. So I donned my tin hat and imagined myself living under the buzz bombs and, spookily enough, I found myself believing every word. Well, almost.
In 1943, when your bloke was coming home on leave and you were lucky to get your hands on a lippy, you'd give anything to look glamorous.
And Lux Toilet Soap is awash with glamour. So if I'd seen Veronica Lake smouldering like a good 'un and Loretta Young promising that men won't forget me if I use Lux, I'd have been straight down the shops brandishing my coupons with the best of them. The cinema commercial is a two-minute wartime romance, so emotional it made my eyes water. Take that any way you like.
But I was amused by the war-effort ads. Claudette Colbert, bless her cashmere socks, was knitting for refugees. I'm not so sure I believe this one. I'm pretty sure Claudette was lying in bed eating grapes at the time.
But nine out of ten film stars not only preferred it, they used it. And that's good enough for me.
I got more glamour and romance with Pond's, although the US got most of it. They got Gloria Vanderbilt de Cicco, (excuse me), cracking on that her sultry beauty was all down to Pond's Dreamflower. And there was me thinking money had something to do with it. The only thing this ad tells me is that every decent American art director had obviously been called up. This side of the pond, on the other hand, we had no Pond's at all. But "Lady beware" cunningly warns of the pitfalls of unknown creams and advises making your last dollop of Pond's last as long as possible. Good tactic. If you can't get them to buy yours at least stop them buying somebody else's. But I take my tin hat off to Beau Bait lipstick. Perfect. I'd buy one today.
How simple life was in the 40s. One box of soap powder did everything.
Clothes, dishes, the lot. And when the few clothes you owned had to last an eternity, you wanted Lux Flakes because they were so gentle. Trouble was, stocks dried up. The creative department must have groaned when the brief arrived: "No product in shops for at least four years. Keep up awareness and increase virtual sales." I like these Lux ads. OK, I know they're patronising but they feel sort of honest. And they have no shame. Can't get a man because your undies are too smelly? Lux Flakes will sort it.
Can't get any Lux Flakes for love nor money? Here's how to spin out the teaspoonful you have left. Then suddenly Lux is back on sale and it's like the first day of Harrod's sale. But with hats on.
And finally, Vaseline. A legend in its own injury time. We all need it.
But in 1940 it was needed at the front. A nice bit of added value here.
If it's good enough to protect the feet of marching men, it's certainly good enough to deal with our little ailments. And anyway, it's recommended by the "Old Contemptibles". Can't say fairer than that.
- Sandra Leamon was a copywriter at JWT London from 1975 to 1998. She worked on lots of Unilever brands and even managed to win a few prizes. The Persil posters - Mrs Gauguin's washing, etc - did particularly well even though they had hardly any words on them at all. Ummm.