Ads in the USSR

Monday March 16, 2015 Written by Smith

Fancy a Hot Air Shower? What about a Double Layered Toilet Seat? Alas, these products don't actually exist, but back during the bad days of the Cold War, commercials advertising them certainly did.

The work of an Estonian advertising agency known as ERF, these commercials were made after the USSR mandated that all Soviet companies had to spend one per cent of their revenue on advertising. For a country not used to producing consumer goods, this sometimes meant funneling money into advertising products that you couldn’t actually purchase.

ERF made over 6000 commercials for all manner of goods – both real and fictitious. But whether they were advertising a fanciful toilet seat or a plain old stick of margarine, they did have one thing in common: they more closely resembled a Lynchian fever dream than anything Sterling Cooper might have produced.

This ad for minced chicken, for instance, raises more questions than it provides answers, not least among them ‘What business did a communist state even have advertising things?’ Not much, it turns out. But looking back, communist advertising was certainly an interesting art project, if nothing else. 

Related: We spoke to Kiur Aarma, the co-director of a documentary about ERF called The Gold Spinners, about the man behind the Soviet Union’s foray into advertising in volume 14. Grab a copy or find your nearest stockist.