Rewind: Folgers Coffee Is Answer to Marital Problems in This '60s TV Ad

Husband Grumbles: 'The Girls at the Office Make Better Coffee'

By Published on .

For the '60s housewife portrayed in this old coffee ad, the best part of waking up wasn't the Folgers in her cup -- it was having her husband finally quit berating her for making an awful cup of joe.

The exchange between the couple in this black and white 60-second spot would be considered inappropriate today (and probably earn the guy some hot coffee dumped on his lap for suggesting he enjoys what the women at work have to offer more than his wife's skills). But just 50 years ago, the strategy underpinning such marketing was to guilt women across America into buying this particular brand of beans in the hopes of making their hubbies happy. And it worked.

Wife: "Harvey, want anything special for your birthday?"

Husband: "Just a decent cup of coffee."

Wife: "You're kidding!"

Husband: "I'm serious. Honey, your coffee is undrinkable."

Wife: "That's pretty harsh."

Husband: "Well so's your coffee. You know the girls down at the office make better coffee on their hot plates."

By the end of the spot, a friend has clued her in a little secret: Give him some Folgers instant coffee. When the wife serves it to her husband at his birthday dinner and earnestly asks, is it "better than the girls' at the office?" he gives her a squeeze and says, "Honey, they can't hold a candle to you."

Well there you go. A can of coffee beans is a lot cheaper than therapy, that 's for sure.

The social mores and sexism portrayed in the ad seem absurd now, but at the time there were a wave of ads with a similar theme of woman uses X product to please dissatisfied husband. Many of them were also filmed in the same sitcom style, with the script, camerawork and behavior of the actors making it feel like you might be watching "Leave It to Beaver."

We have to wonder what the Folger family, who arrived on U.S. soil in the 1600s, would have thought. As the story goes, the heritage of the name in the U.S. dates back to 18-year old Peter, who sailed from Norwich, England, to the Massachusetts Bay Colony and during the journey across the Atlantic fell in love with a woman named Mary Morrell. The lived in Nantucket and had eight children, which continued to grow the Folger name. One descendant a couple hundred years later was the enterprising James A. Folger.

Mr. Folger originally got into the coffee business in San Francisco via the Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills, which he became a partner in and eventually bought out. He put his name on the door and his children worked in the family business. After Folger's passing in 1889, his son took over and helped expand the company significantly.

In 1963, Procter & Gamble Company acquired the brand and backed national distribution, making it America's No. 1 coffee brand.

Folgers advertising was always highly attention-getting and memorable. There was the jingle everyone knows, of course, which was "The Best Part of Waking Up Is Folgers in Your Cup." And one ad in particular became very popular during the 1980's: a holiday-themed spot where a young man comes home from college to visit his parents and brews coffee on Christmas morning, the scent wafting up the stairs and rousing everyone to come open their gifts. The ad was by the long-shuttered shop Cunningham & Walsh. According to the Ad Age Encyclopedia, in its 37-year history, billings grew to $370 million.

In November 2008, The J.M. Smucker Company acquired Folgers from Procter & Gamble in a $3.3 billion deal.

Little did that housewife know that many years later, another woman would come along and steal her husband's heart: the mermaid on Starbucks' coffee cup.

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