Finding Family

One woman's obsession with family history.

Lifebuoy soap (though not invented by them) was promoted by the Lever Brothers in England in 1895. It was propelled into the advertising world with ads claiming that it would save you from illness and protect you from germs (hence the name) due to its antiseptic nature. Early ads focused on the fact that it was carbolic (it contained carbolic acid) and would keep you healthy but later ads simply stated that it contained a “special health ingredient” that would protect you from the perils of illness as well as body odour. It is the latter claim which provides us with very amusing ads, mostly from the 1940s. Incidentally, Lifebuoy used the acronym ‘BO’ instead of the words ‘body odour’ and, it is believed, it was their ads which resulted in BO becoming a commonly used term.

While most of the ads appear to be targeted towards women, I have since found that men were not completely excluded. All kinds of storylines were used in Lifebuoy’s “comics” in order to incite fear and play on a person’s insecurities. If people were snubbing you, excluding you or didn’t want to date you it was because (according to Lifebuoy) you probably had BO.

Wondering why no one wants to go to the dance with you?

Lifebuoy, Advocate, 20 November 1945, Pg 6

Is there a reason you’re not married yet and, by golly, you’re 32!?

Lifebuoy, Canberra Times, 11 June 1941, Pg 2

Do people think you’re not as dainty as you used to be?

Lifebuoy, Recorder, 4 June 1945, Pg 4

Feeling a little hot under the collar because the chaps are snubbing you?

Lifebuoy, Recorder, 20 January 1941, Pg 3

Does your fiancé continue to put the wedding off?

Lifebuoy, Women's Weekly, 26 July 1947, Pg 22

Perhaps there’s another reason why your guests aren’t showing up…

Lifebuoy, Women's Weekly, 29 November 1941, Pg 15

When dancing is skipped there simply must be a reason…

Lifebuoy, Women's Weekly, 9 March 1946, Pg 47

The cake of Lifebuoy soap was coloured red and though I can’t be completely sure, I don’t believe it was ever used by my family (I certainly don’t remember red soap – we tended to use Imperial Leather). It’s possible however that my youth is against me because, to be honest, I don’t really recall the Lifebuoy brand at all.

I’d love to read about your memories though. Do you remember red Lifebuoy soap or the brand itself? Are there any other ads that left such a lasting impression that you still remember them?



8 thoughts on “Lifebuoy Soap Advertising

  1. njsresearch6 says:

    A great story Jess and you continue to inspire us to be more than just amateur family historians. I do remember Lifebouy soap but not red, more a pale pink. I have a few years on you,and in my day Imperial Leather was always sort of upper class, a more trendy product.

    1. Jess says:

      Thanks Neville! Your comment made me smile. I never would’ve thought Imperial Leather was trendy or upper class. hehe Mum would buy it in a large pack and it would sit in her cupboard under the sink. Whenever it was her birthday or Mother’s Day my brother and I would sneak into her room unwrap a soap or two and wrap it up in different paper and give it to her as a present. She was always thrilled, which amuses me now. We were giving her something she’d already bought. haha 🙂

  2. GeniAus says:

    I also have memories of Lifebuoy but it wasn’t used in our famly, we were a green palmolive mob.

    1. Jess says:

      I can remember green Palmolive soap too. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. 🙂

      1. Par Kelsey says:

        Still have Palmolive here. I get it at Dollar Tree.

  3. lbeth1950 says:

    Loved seeing these. Thanks.

    1. Jess says:

      You’re welcome. Glad you liked them. 🙂

  4. Par Kelsey says:

    I heard (on old time radio) that there are 13 areas on the body where one perspires. I never localized it, but what, exactly, are the 13 areas?

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