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7 Classic Commercials Offensive by Today's Standards

These ads tested audience's taste levels even when they were airing regularly.

Television has evolved alongside the rest of our culture, and the ads you see during commercial breaks are no exception. Some behaviors and norms that people (or, at least, the people in power) once accepted without a thought look problematic, misogynistic, or even downright racist today. Read on for seven classic TV commercials with offensive content that would never air today.

RELATED: 6 Classic Sitcom Episodes That Are Wildly Offensive by Today's Standards.

Folgers: "Husband-Pleasing Coffee" ('60s)

Folgers spent the '60s serving up a series of sexist ads featuring hapless women being demeaned by their husbands for making "undrinkable" and even "criminal" coffee. "How can such a pretty wife… make such bad coffee?" one husband laments.

The husbands in these coffee ads usually admit that they'd rather go elsewhere—to the office or the station—for a better cup, leading the wife to go on a mission to find redemption in "husband-pleasing" Folgers.

Fritos: "Frito Bandito" (1967 to 1971)

The racist corn chip mascot voiced by Bugs Bunny and Speedy Gonzales actor Mel Blanc prompted the creation of the National Mexican-American Anti-Defamation Committee (NMAADC) in 1968, according to Remezcla. Although the organization pressured Frito Lay to stop using the offensive character in their commercials, "the company refused, citing a survey they conducted that said 85 percent of Mexican Americans liked the character," per the outlet.

RELATED: 7 Hit '70s Songs That Are Offensive by Today's Standards.

Post: Rice Krinkles (1965)

A little boy named So-Hi from the Saturday morning cartoon Linus the Lionhearted is the mascot in commercials for this honey- and sugar-sweetened Post cereal. Drawing on offensive Asian stereotypes, So-Hi spoke stilted English with a thick accent, got his name because he was only "so high," and could be found pulling a rickshaw at the bottom of the cereal box.

Keep America Beautiful: "The Crying Indian" (1971)

There are many things wrong with this iconic, Clio Award-winning public service announcement that debuted Earth Day, 1971. For starters, Keep America Beautiful, the anti-pollution non-profit that ran it, was formed by a group of beverage and packaging corporations. Its star, Iron Eyes Cody (born Espera di Corta), was not Native American but of Italian descent. Then there's the depiction of the indigenous man as a stoic, historical artifact—sitting helplessly in a canoe, at a moment when actual indigenous activists had been occupying Alcatraz Island for more than a year to raise awareness of injustices past and present.

Although it would take more than 50 years, in February 2023, Keep America Beautiful acknowledged that the PSA had used "imagery that stereotyped American Indian and Alaska Native people and misappropriated Native culture" and transferred the ad's copyright to the National Congress of American Indians, which intends to limit its usage to historical purposes.

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Love: Baby Soft (1975)

The powdery perfume spray Baby Soft was introduced in 1974 and becam a smash hit with adolescents, making its original slogan, "Because innocence is sexier than you think," super creepy. Creepier still was its 1975 TV spot featuring a grown woman demurely licking a lollipop as a man's voice prattles on about "a cuddly, clean baby…who grew up very sexy."

Faygo: Red Pop (1979)

In this ad, dressed as an indigenous American, Lebanese American M*A*S*H actor Jamie Farr presents an ostensibly humorous creation myth for a soda called Red Pop. After the "Great Spirit Faygo" proceeds to hand the soda down from the sky, the commercial gets even more offensive, as Native characters are commanded to share the soda with oncoming European colonists and Farr tells a character named "Running Pudgy" that he should give thanks for the diet version.

RELATED: 9 Classic Fashion Trends That Are Offensive by Today's Standards.

AT&T: "Streamlining Business" (1996)

In this 1996 commercial showcasing the magic of dial-up internet, a pole vaulter jumps to the top of New York City's Twin Towers. We then see the silhouette of his body plummeting in the screen of a World Trade Center employee's computer and from other angles in shots. While the vaulter blessedly lands on a crash pad, the images recall the controversial "Falling Man" 9/11 photo sequence, making the ad feel both eerily prescient and unplayable for future audiences.

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller is a pop culture writer living in New York. Read more
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