When we think of coffee advertisements today so many different things may come to mind. We could be thinking of coffee shops such as Dunkin’ Donuts’ with their popular slogan “America Runs on Dunkin’”, or we could be thinking about instant coffee such as Folgers or Maxwell House. Regardless of what advertisements we are thinking of when we think of coffee all are targeted towards a certain group of people. Ads tend to work best when they are made for a specific population and also tend to make assumptions about their customers.

Around 1919 the idea of instant coffee became the latest phenomenon. Many companies were trying to turn their ground coffee beans into instant coffee to keep up with the technologically changing world. People no longer wanted to wait for coffee to brew so instant coffee was the quickest and easiest way to get the same great taste at a faster rate. In The Atlantic Monthly Advertiser an ad was placed for “Barrington Hall Soluble Coffee”. This advertisement featured many words in different sized print as well as a very bold picture of a coffee tin. Though in black and white, the soluble coffee is clearly highlighted due to the firework type image behind it. Next to the image the quote “Good-Bye, Old Coffee Pot!” is written and underneath it a blub about why the coffee is so good, where to purchase the coffee, how much it cost, and especially how convenient it is to make and consume. The very bottom of the ad features a cut off order slip with instructions on how to get some of this coffee. This advertisement is targeted towards coffee drinkers but does not focus on a specific gender or age group. The ad is a bit wordy for today’s time but fits very well into the time period in which it was released. Due to the fact that this idea was very new the words are needed to further explain to people what the product is. The color contrast makes the images pop and have that as the first thing that catches our eyes.

In the late 1800s Maxwell House, a popular brand of coffee, was founded. Not long after they created their brand they began releasing advertisements anywhere they could. In an advertisement in the Corpus Christi Caller in 1929 they published an ad for their coffee. At first glance we can already tell this is an ad for coffee. We see a man drinking a cup of coffee. Behind him we see other men and women doing the same. The print says “Such a little more to pay for such greater satisfaction”. Below the Companies logo it says in small print a brief advertisement for their tea. This ad appeals to both men and women, presumably in their late twenties to early forties based on the appearance of the people in the advertisement. By stating that the company also sells tea the ad is geared toward tea as well as coffee drinkers. The ad makes the assumption that people like to enjoy caffeinated beverages. It makes drinking coffee look fun and effortless. The simplistic design and black and white color of the ad makes it easy to read and understand.

Flash-forward to the 1960s, the famous instant coffee company released a series of television ads. The majority of these advertisements fit the social norms of the decade: housewives catering to every need of their husbands. This ad was geared towards women, especially those who “made bad coffee”. I viewed a series of these commercials and they all started off with the men complaining about their coffee and then the women going to either their friend, neighbor, or grocer stating how their husbands did not enjoy the beverage they were making. All of the ads featured women in dresses with their hair and makeup done up as well as pearls and high heels. Their husbands were dressed in suits and seen always sitting down at the table. In one of the commercials, a woman named Mary goes to see her neighbor Mrs. Olson with a problem, she complains how her husband described her coffee as “undrinkable as ever”. Mrs. Olson then goes over to the cabinet and pulls out a tin of Folgers. The coffee is said to be “different” and “special” because it is Mountain Grown. After the women finish talking the coffee tin is displayed and the logo comes up on the screen emphasizing the mountain grown aspect. I really enjoyed watching this ad, it seems relatable and advertises the coffee very well.

Though all coffee ads are different and advertise different types and ways to consume coffee, they all have the same purpose: to get a certain population to buy their product. Regardless of the company and target audience the goal is to get people to buy and drink coffee. Whether it be printed in a newspaper or repeated over and over on TV, the way we view coffee at first glance is shaped by how it is advertised.

Works Cited:

 Barrington Hall Soluble Coffee. Advertisement. Atlantic Monthly 123 (1919): n.

pag. Digital file.

 Folgers Coffee Commercial #13 (1960s). By I Want More Retro. YouTube. YouTube,

29 May 2009. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <

The Corpus Christi caller. (Corpus Christi, Tex.), 21 Sept. 1921. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>


One thought on “Coffee

  1. I really enjoyed reading your piece! A big coffee drinker myself, it is interesting to see how selling coffee all began. When you started your piece referring to Dunkin’ Donuts, I thought you were going to focus on that and Starbucks. It was interesting to see you go in a difference direction with your piece and focus on instant coffee. I especially enjoyed your take on 1960’s coffee ads. However, your piece was a bit hard to follow at times grammatically–maybe try to make some sentences shorter and add commas when necessary.


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