Historical Analysis of Advertisements for Coca Products

The first article is a newspaper advertisement for Burnett’s “Cocoaine” in the Charleston Mercury paper on February 19, 1859. This product is promoted as hair care products that essentially cure most hair related issues. This product claims to: strengthen hair, prevent hair loss, remove dandruff, softens hair, and is not greasy or sticky. This product immediately comes off as a scam to someone living in the 21st century because “cure-all” drugs don’t ever do what they intend. Also, the products themselves have cocaine in them or even have cocaine in the name of the product, which is highly illegal in today’s world. The advertisement assumes that the customers buying the product are initially skeptical of the product, being that it can cure all of these hair-related ailments. The advertisement has a testimonial about the product to confirm what the ad is claiming to be true. The ad claims that any person of any age, socio-economic status, and race can use this product. However, this ad does focus on the main fear of an unhealthy scalp and unhealthy or unattractive looking hair. The ad’s rhetoric during the time this ad was released would have been very successful, but however in today’s society this ad would have been very unsuccessful with its rhetoric. The ad could have been improved by decreasing its benefits to just one, which would be dandruff removal or to improving scalp health. Having a wide range of benefits to one product is often very deceiving to the public eye, and often is mistrusted. Another way this advertisement’s rhetoric could have been improved is if there were multiple first-hand accounts from people who have used this product. The more proof that this product works the better the ethos for the product. Also, since the ad is all text, adding some sort of images or examples of the product would help this

The second article is also a newspaper advertisement, but it is for French Coca Wine. This elixir was advertised in The Atlanta Constitution during April 29th, 1885. This elixir is supposed to cure a multitude of ailments ranging from: depression, memory loss, insomnia, appetite loss, headaches and kidney diseases. This ad, just like the first article, claims to be a cure-all end all for a wide range of ailments, which denotes to its credibility. Who would honestly believe that one product could possibly cure all of these diseases and ailments. The fact that this product also cures “kidney diseases” is quite damaging to the article’s ethos because the category of kidney diseases is extremely broad. The ad is very clear about what the product does, but however the credibility of the product is very questionable. Its target audience is also very broad, generalizing anyone who wants to improve their health and live longer. In order to improve the ad’s effectiveness three items need to be including/excluded. One, the advertisement itself needs to have an image of the product itself, somewhat legitimizing that this product does in fact exist and is not just some mystical elixir written about in this purely text advertisement. Two, what the product cures needs to be refined to one or two conditions. If the product’s benefits are refined to one or two conditions the product seems to be more real than if the product claims to cure a wide range of conditions. Thirdly, the product needs some sort of first-hand examples of how this product works and if it works at all because currently there is no way to judge how or even if this product works.

The third article, just like the first two articles, is a newspaper advertisement. However, this ad is for Merck’s Chemicals and Drugs. This ad was published in The Time of India on March 4th, 1903. This advertisement is trying to sell medical grade cocaine, quinine, and other mercurials. The ad claims to be selling products that are not only medically and pharmaceutically recognized, but of high purity. The products are intended for medicinal, technical, and analytical purposes. Immediately the reader should be concerned about this product because if a product is for analytical purposes, it most likely should not be used for medicine, since it’s still being tested. Also the products in question do not show how the product itself can be used in any of these fields. The article advertises it’s award-winning quality, but awards specifically did the products win? There are a lot of holes in the ethos of this advertisement. There are multiple ways this ad could be improved; these improvements are very similar to the ways the first two articles could be improved. One, include photos of the products that Merck’s Chemicals and Drugs is trying to sell to somewhat legitimize the claims of quality and medical properties and also showing pictures of the awards that were won. Two, refine and specify the uses of the products in order to legitimize the products more than their very generalized use they are originally advertised for. Finally, the advertisement should include first-hand accounts from people who have used each of the products to again legitimize the product more than general award winning claims.

Works Cited:

Article 1: “Classified Ad 3 — no Title.” The Charleston Mercury (1840-1865) Feb 19 1859: 2. ProQuest. 1 Dec. 2014 .


Article 2: “Display Ad 10 — no Title.” The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945) Apr 29 1885: 6. ProQuest. 1 Dec. 2014 .


Article 3: “Classified Ad 21 — no Title.” The Times of India (1861-current) Mar 04 1903: 10. ProQuest. 1 Dec. 2014 .


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