Appliances quickly seemed to become outdated since the industry took the cue from General Motors by constantly updating models. In 1955, consumers spent $1.3B buying 4 million refrigerators, and the explanation was simple: frozen food. The figure that came to symbolize the dazzling new kitchen with appliances and advertising was Betty Furness, the Lady of Westinghouse. In 1949, Furness was 33 years old, and her career in over 30 movies (mostly B-movies) was winding down. Furness was attractive, but not in a way that made women jealous. Furness appeared as women wanted to be or envisioned themselves: bright, upbeat, confident, and modern without looking too glamorous. Furness exuded the kind of confidence that convinced women that their lives would be much easier with new appliances from Westinghouse.
Furness was not only famous, millions of women viewed her as a friend; to her surprise, to these women she was "Betty". The trademark phrase from the Lady of Westinghouse was "You can be sure if it's Westinghouse". Westinghouse signed Furness to a non-cancellable three year contract at $100k/year, and with that she became the Queen of American Appliances.
As she continued in her great job, she noticed that she began to shrink . . . the appliances were getting bigger-and-bigger each year. The only appliance that she advertised that didn't sell well was the dishwasher; women were afraid of losing their last "toehold" on the kitchen, according to industry research. Furness was with Westinghouse for eleven years; by the early-1960s, a the new Westinghouse CEO wanted a younger pitchwoman.
Madison Avenue was $12.3m, in 1950, $40.8m, and in 1951, $128m. In the 1950s, advertising on TV compared with schools and churches with social influence. During the 1950s, the federal government started to close in on cigarette companies and their TV commercials. In July 1952, Reader's Digest (immune from advertising) published an article titled "Cancer by the Carton" that claimed a link between smoking and cancer. The cigarette industry, feeling at least somewhat cornered, introduced filter-tipped cigarettes.
It was at about this time that Philip Morris came out with Marlboro, originally a cigarette for women. But Philip Morris decided to push the product towards men; the problem was that at the time filtered cigarettes were considered to be effeminate. Philip Morris wanted an ad campaign (both print and TV) that showed that Marlboro was a masculine cigarette, for a real man. Over time, the brainstorming led from men with tattoos to a cowboy; the myth of the cowboy in the midst of fast-growing suburbs was a powerful lure to individualism.
The first Marlboro Man ad ran in January 1955, and the key to the campaign was the craggy-faced cowboy. Chesterfield cigarettes soon advertised with a cowboy as well, but as far as the American cigarette consumer was concerned, cowboys and the West belonged to Marlboro.
Ordinary buyers were extended unprecedented credit limits. The Great Depression generation feared debt, but not the generation that came of age after WW II. But since millions of Americans in the 1950s had also endured the Great Depression and WW II, Madison Avenue had to find a way to balance the cautiousness of the past with the abundance and affluence of the 1950s. One thing that had to be sorted out on the advertising front was distinguishing between pleasure and guilt for those that were more affluent than their parents.
That advertising strategy not only worked for Cadillac, but also for .15 cent hamburgers at McDonald's. America was slowly-but-surely learning to live with affluence, convincing itself that it had the right to new appliances, cars, and fast food, etc. For Madison Avenue, every year that went by in the 1950s, it became easier to sell compared to the "Puritan Past" before World War II.
Addendum: The Plight of 1950s Suburban Housewives