Monday, April 23, 2018

"Do shadows hide your beauty?" Your future in a bar of soap

Camay wasn't a soap so much as a state of mind. Think of it. There was nothing in this product that wasn't in a million other kinds of soap products. What they were selling here was an idea. No, what they were selling here was a future. A literal metamorphosis, not from a bad-smelling woman to a nice-smelling woman, but from a dour and unwanted single girl to a Bride. Almost every Camay commercial I could find (and I recently unearthed a cache of them from the Internet Archive, which I then turned into this series of gifs) features this remarkable morphing into a married state, which to our eyes seems creepy and even laughable, but to young women in the '50s must have been. . . remarkable.

I think I've used Camay once or twice - or was it Pond's? At any rate, it was about as refreshing as rubbing a pound of Crisco on my face. I now use the plainest stuff I can find, only a step up from lye and ashes, with no scent and no cold cream or other yucky dreck. But Camay was obsessed with cold cream, and its manic little jingle proclaimed it like some revelation: "There's cold cream now in Camay! There's cold cream now in Camay!"

Earlier ads were a little more melancholy-sounding: "Do shadows hide your beauty?" (though with the same irritating three-note tune - their jingle-writer must have been lazy). "Your beauty" is interesting, isn't it, because it just assumes you're beautiful, or you WILL be beautiful once you get those grungy shadows off your face by using Camay. This was a rare case of a product with a woman announcer, though  her voice was almost contralto-sounding, with a la-di-da, privileged, finishing school diction that's hard to describe. People just don't speak that way any more.

Having worked my brain off making these gif compilations, and they really do take quite a bit of time and effort, suddenly I want to share the actual ads, which are minor works of art and which jack the lid off the strange and contradictory values of the 1950s. You used this soap so you could attract someone and get married, so that then you wouldn't have to worry about attracting someone any more and could just sort of stop using it. Or maybe just use the cheaper stuff.

Looks very jolly, doesn't it?