Mermaids and Mad Men – Mermaids in Advertising

Mermaids and Mad Men – Mermaids in Advertising Advertisement for china aquarium mermaid decoration.

It’s the beginning of September, when we bid farewell to summer and the seaside. While sea serpents were a staple of the Silly Season papers, mermaids, with their sexy, yet wholesome, Guppy-Next-Door looks, were popular year round in advertising.

The mermaid was the ideal creature to make a splash about mineral water.

Caley’s Mineral Waters

Brault Mineral Water advertisement

Schweppes Table Waters advertisement

One of the more mystifying pairings was mermaids and tobacco products.

Murad Turkish Cigarettes

Mermaid tobacco ad 1868

Travel posters also featured the subterranean temptresses. Who knew that Ostende was so thrilling?

Mermaids shilled all sorts of miscellaneous products:

Pearl buttons:

Mermaid pearls button card.

Fruit Jar rubber rings:

I’m not sure fishing line was the best fit, but it certainly played into viewers’ siren fantasies.

Western Fishing Line mermaid advertisement

Sponges were a natural pairing:

1900 mermaid sponges

This red-headed mermaid seems unusually enthusiastic about her product.

Mermaids frequently found their way onto fish cans. One of the best known was, of course, the Starkist tuna mermaid. This Veronica Lake of the Deep had a shy come-hither glance paired with a mystifying Harlequin-check sheath. Plus a star-tipped fairy wand. In 1951 men weren’t doing the shopping, so why the sex appeal? [Ruth from OK makes the point I failed to make: “Men may not have been shopping in the 50’s but they were definitely in charge of advertising, a la the Mad Men TV show, which is why sexy mermaids. You know, men and…whatever…slap sex on it and sell it, lol.” Thanks, Ruth!]

Mermaids and Mad Men – Mermaids in Advertising StarKist Chicken of the Sea Mermaid

While the StarKist mermaid sometimes appeared on cans, she was mostly seen in print and TV ads. Earlier, however, mermaids are found on tins of sardines, anchovies, and pilchards.

Mermaid pilchards tin

Mermaids and Mad Men - Mermaids in Advertising

La Sirena Anchovies

Mermaid brand sardines

The juxtaposition suggests terrible things about the contents. “Does what it says on the fin…”

[Note that the following image is an artwork, rather than an advertising piece…]

“Fish Out of Water” Susan Brotchie, 1985

Other examples of mermaid-based advertisements? Anyone care to see my StarKist mermaid doll? [A promotion item for $1.00 and several tuna labels, if I recall correctly.] chriswoodyard8 AT

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead. And visit her newest blog, The Victorian Book of the Dead.


5.00 avg. rating (99% score) - 4 votes