Do You See the Stereotypes?

Product: American Optical Company
Date: 1948

It’s 1948. The war is over, but for many Americans Pearl Harbor is still a raw wound. Just a few years earlier, Japanese-Americans were rounded up by the thousands, robbed of their property and sent to internment camps. Anti-Asian sentiment still runs high.

1948 optician ad

Out comes this ad with the headline, Whose eyes are better?

Shocked? Surprised? Nope and nope. Racism (and other -isms) are par for the course in vintage advertising.

It’s the next line that’s the jawdropper:

Neither. American eyes are no better than others.

Wow. I was definitely not expecting that.

I’m pretty sure the American Optical Company knew exactly what it was doing when it ran a picture of an Asian woman and a white woman side by side with a provocative headline. I’d bet money they figured to catch a lot of people who were confident they knew the answer.

Then that little word: Neither.

Pow. Stereotypes exploded.

It probably caught a lot of people by surprise, just as it caught me by surprise more than 60 years later, albeit for different reasons. Whoever penned that ad was a savvy copywriter, skilled at eliciting reaction.

1948 optician ad

Click to view full ad.

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One Response to “Do You See the Stereotypes?”

  1. Anna on May 18th, 2011 6:05 pm

    Wow, that is really something! I am very impressed with whoever wrote that!

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