The Seductive World Of Hi-Fi Advertising

The Hi-Fi system was an essential part of any would-be swinging bachelor’s pad – and advertisers knew how to package the dream of sexy stereos and gorgeous girls.

Few things have been marketed as aspirational items quite as ruthlessly as the Hi-Fi in all its incarnations. From the 1950s until the 1980s, hi-fi systems – be they record decks, tape recorders, speakers, all-in-one units or separates – were seen as the ultimate consumer luxury and a sign of sophistication. A groovy music system was as much a part of the swinging bachelor pad as a cocktail cabinet and a selection of seductive easy-listening sounds played through a state-of-the-art set-up was a vital part of any modern hipster’s home. It was very much an essential component in the Playboy lifestyle and it is no surprise that some of these ads were specific to that magazine and its rivals. Of course, the easy listening LPs that you might play on your groovy new set-up also had similar glamour girl covers, perpetuating the fantasy.

Back then, it was thought – with good reason, it should be said – that most, if not all the customers for such equipment would be men. No doubt there were exceptions even at the time, but on the whole, the sort of people who were fascinated by woofers and tweeters and would argue over whether a collection of separates would give better sound than a ready-built hi-fi unit (of course they do) tended to be male – and not necessarily the sort who would be bringing home gorgeous models to sip martinis with whilst listening to Martin Denny’s latest. Still, they could dream.

Hi-Fi manufacturers and their ad agencies knew how to sell that dream – and for most of their customers, the dream was about gorgeous girls who would be so impressed by their new Kenwood receiver that their clothes would fall off. Of course, sex was used to sell everything back in the 1960s and 1970s, but the hi-fi world is remarkably blatant.

There is, in fact, a fascinating sub-genre of glamour modelling that we might call the ‘Hi-Fi Girl’ – scantily-clad women posing with vinyl LPs and record players in photos that seem to be the result of a primal understanding of what men are excited by. It’s a subject that we will, no doubt, come back to because God knows, it speaks to us on a very deep level.

The glamour girl and hi-fi combo continued in advertising into the early 1980s – and like much of this sort of advertising, never quite went away, especially in countries where political correctness is still a novel idea. But changing tastes would see the models phased out. As home video became the new home entertainment hardware on the block, the equipment itself was increasingly seen as an object of desire in itself and didn’t need a dolly bird draped across it to sell (of course, the VCR was popular in large part because it offered the opportunity to watch X-rated movies in the privacy of your home, and so had a rather different sex appeal). Today, these ads would be banned by the various bodies who sit in judgement of what we can see,

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