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Century old Lifebuoy ad finds relevance amidst COVID-19 crisis

With a few minor tweaks, the ad would still be relevant if published today. Hygiene brands and healthcare experts are repeating a 100 year old message.

The copy of a Lifebuoy print commercial from almost a century ago is perfectly relevant in today’s time. The long copy is supplemented by an image of a crowd and speaks about how crowding enhances the chances of spreading an infection, the likes of measles, diphtheria and influenza. The caption in bold reads ‘Crowds Breed Contagion’. As per information available at the repository of the Duke University, the ad was published in 1923 in an American magazine named Saturday Evening Post.

The Lifebuoy print ad from 1923.
The Lifebuoy print ad from 1923.

The perfect relevance today comes from the points highlighted. The first issue taken up is the dangers of crowding. This is followed by the dangers of touching surfaces like door knobs and railings. Next, it goes on to define ‘carriers’, the ones who are already infected and are capable of infecting others. The caption of the image mentions ‘Typhoid Mary’ or Mary Tallon, a real person in history (from the late 1800s), a domestic cook in the United States of America who was infected with the Typhoid fever. She was proven to have infected over eight families. Typhoid Mary was identified as a ‘healthy carrier’ meaning the person though infected, did not suffer, but passed on the disease to others.

Before moving on to the benefits of using a Lifebuoy soap, the ad highlights the importance of washing hands and faces frequently in order to avoid infection.

We are amidst the global Coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic. And, healthcare experts and even the WHO has been reiterating the above mentioned guidelines to check the spread of the infection at a community level. Social distancing, lockdowns and sanitising our surroundings is a norm.

What’s interesting is, this ad from 1920s targets mothers and refers to them as ‘health doctors’ of a family. It further urges moms to place a bar (read cake) of Lifebuoy near running water in homes.

Guess which other brand in the hygiene space asked moms to use its soap to wash hands in a rather recent campaign? The tagline starts with “Maa maane…..”.