If you want a three-minute lesson on how society has changed since the mid-1970s, take a look at these Love’s Baby Soft fragrance ads, starting with the top two from the mid-seventies. With a glance, you can tell they’re creepy and wrong — one with a Lolita-style girl, and the other with a “babyish” young woman licking a lollipop — both featuring the tagline, “Because innocence is sexier than you think.”
Newspapers from coast-to-coast were full of ads for the stuff, and weren’t shy about the slogan, or its meaning. For example, in 1975, one New Jersey paper ran a department store ad with the heading, “Love’s Baby Soft is a blend of innocence and sex.”
A year later, newspapers in several different states — including Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, North Dakota, Texas and Utah — ran an ad for Love’s Baby Soft that called it “an almost grown-up scent that’s so pure, it’s sexy.”
What is also telling about these ads is the lack of response to them. Few people at the time seemed to care about the message being delivered, because that sort of thing was pretty much expected and accepted.
It’s not like people didn’t notice — it seems like it just didn’t trigger any alarm bells. A columnist in The Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, Massachusetts) even wrote of the inexpensive new cosmetic line in April 1974: “Love Cosmetics has launched a new ‘baby soft’ fragrance for bath and body, claiming that ‘innocence is sexier than you think.’ Now, I’m a long way from the age of innocence, and cosmetic blurbs are usually so exaggerated that they are ridiculous, but Love sent samples which passed the scent-test of the office noses…” Apparently, little thought was given to the icky innocence = sexy motif.
The result? The original pink Love’s (and its lemon counterpart sold like crazy), because it turned out that some girls liked feeling grown up having their own practice perfume, while a lot of girls loved the scent. In fact, through much of the seventies and eighties, you couldn’t walk the halls in a junior high or high school without smelling the stuff.
Whether it was the result of quiet pushback on the “sexy” ad campaigns, or just a desire to do something new, the company moved on to other methods of persuasion after a couple of years. While none of Love’s later advertisements would have earned them any awards, most of them were at least a little less tacky and overt.
By the time the 1980s rolled around, the ads had a decidedly different tone, as the powers that be found better ways to market the drugstore line to teens — and their parents.
Because Love’s Baby Soft is a very soft, delicate scent. As you can see, there are all kinds of Love to give. So feel free to choose as much as you want. Because you can never give anyone too much Love.
Nothing feels as good as Love.
Underneath it all, she’s Baby Soft (1986, 1987, 1988)
Love’s Baby Soft for your soft side, and Love’s Baby Soft Musk for your more sensuous side.
Love’s newspaper ads
Dates of publication, clockwise from upper left: 1976, 1974, 1975, 1979