The start of hopefully many posts about the various items (often just tat) advertised in various magazine publications over the years.
Magazines often provide a great insight into the trends, opinions and general market preferences of various audiences at the time; and often for dates that preceed the flurry of information that exists today, ony exist within the paper walls of print publications.
Although magazines still exist today, they are forever becomming a rarer sight in supermarkets and even rarer sight to be found in the hands of readers. However one notion that seems to be forever incorrect (at least of the magazines I have looked at recently dating from post-war publications to those from the heady days of the 90s, through to more recent publications of the 2010’s) is the fact that people believe that magazines these days are full of adverts. This is simply not true, as it would appear nearly every magazine was full of adverts.
Anyone who knows me, knows that looking at these adverts is one of the things I gleam the most value from these publications; pretty much for the reasons given above, to see and understand the target audience’s buying habits and general desires.
So in this post, we will be looking at the various products advertised in “Woman”, a generic lifestyle magazine aimed at well women with the intention of covering the topics you’d expect; fashion, cooking, knitting and childcare. This publication comes to us from the 2nd of August 1986, not a time when I was alive of course – but still interesting regardless.
Enough of the ramble, let’s dig in!
Heinz Salad Cream
Immediately we are greeted with a full-page colour advert for Heinz Salad Cream. This advert is rather abstract considering the only text present is Given the choice, wouldn’t you go straight for Heinz? straight in the middle, with two photographs of seemingly the same dish top-and-bottom.
Stranger than the lack of any real promotional text, price or actual logos; the composition of the photographs is simply bizarre. I can only guess the objective here is that the various salad items on the plate are drawn to the salad cream being advertised, because it is Heinz. Or maybe you could look at it in reverse and that the un-pictured eater here has slapped their celery stick so hard that it has sent shockwaves sending the salad medley straight off the porcelain!
Birds Eye “Menu Master” series
Past the contents page and the reader encounters a double-spread advert; this time for a series of vegetarian ready meals from processed-food giant Birds Eye. The advert lists the flavours:
- Vegetable Curry with Pilau Rice
- Vegetable Lasange
- Cauliflower Cheese
- Mushroom and Pasta Italienne
The double-spread delights us with the packaging for all four flavours, and displays the first option being dished up.
Considering how miserable many ready-meals could, and still can, be Birds Eye have done well to make these meatless varieties look rather appetising.
This is the first time I’ve heard of Menu Master meals, so if you ever experienced them what are your memories, were they a good quick meal or sodium drenched slop.
“Portable” Sun Bed
Ah, the first questionable advert of the magazine; mail-order only offer of course!
The use of sun-beds is still generally a thing, you’ll certainly find a tanning salon in many British towns, although many of them have expanded to providing you the full rotisserie chicken experience to also providing nail care, simple botox, massages, things to do with your eyebrows and in some cases coffee and cake.
However it certainly seems the idea of slowly roasting your body in an enclosed space is starting to fall out of fashion, with individuals desiring to go for a full body spray-tan. But this is 1986, and gadgets are the in-thing, and why can’t you just do it yourself, what could possibly go wrong?
This single page advert is covered in text, turning into a short novel by the distributor (a Best Buys possibly related to magazine publisher IPC), but features a bikini adorned golden woman demonostrating just how easy these Portable Solarium’s are (let’s be honest, it likely weighed a good amount – a good 7kg, was a fiddle to get into the right position and possibly hummed like a gaggle of office flourescent lights). The price is given as a bargain £75 (which is £213 in at time of publication with inflation), although you could upgrade to the even less portable Foldaway Solarium (which is shown with the model sitting below in what can be only described as a rather uncomfortable position) for a mere £159.95 (~£455).
I guess the hilarious thing posed with this product, is the fact that the smaller unit (and main focus of the advert) can only tan a single part of your body at one time; which I can only imagine would make for a lot of effort when aiming for an even shade of brown.
Of course, there are no real health warnings presented here at all; aside from the general “If you’re unsure, contact your doctor” who would likely tell you that slowly cooking yourself inside your home is probably worse for you than if you slowly cooked yourself outside your home. Many of the public these days are rightfully concerned with skin cancer, and I’d say the awareness around it is only ever increasing. As many who have experienced it first hand, or via family or friends – skin cancer is a painful condition to go through, and many would rather avoid encountering it wherever possible. I can’t say I have read many womens health & beauty magazines recently, but I’d find it surprising to see anything like this product being advertised now.
As for are any of these on ebay? It would appear no, certainly not in the rather crude Practical Electronics design found in this advert. As one would imagine, UV tanning devices are still available for purchase including these questionable portable units.
Sun Valley Turkey Burgers
Beyond two pages of people’s general opinions sent into the magazine for publishing (it’s like an early version of Twitter, or do I now mean X?) we are at another single page advertisment for Sun Valley’s Turkey Burgers.
The advertisment states that these are a great alternative to beef patties, which I am sure they are. Although you cannot buy them from Sun Valley anymore (Sun Valley not being a current brand anymore, at least not in this capacity as Sun Valley appears to be producing nut-based snack options) turkey burgers are still a thing. Albeit not in a cheesey breaded capacity as shown here; but likely a more health-friendly fresh version.
Although unfounded, it is likely that following the assault on childrens fast food items launched by one Jamie Oliver with a laser-point focus on processed turkey products is the reason why something like a breaded cheesy turkey patty no longer exists as a viable option.
The advert ends with a price, 76p for two patties which is £4 in 2023 money – which is actually more than a comparable breaded chicken burger from Birds Eye which seems to be around the £2.80 mark.
Does anyone remember eating these, were they your favourite as a child?
If you’re interested in reading the magazine in question in full, it is available here on Archive.org.