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The first time – in blue and white

Long before Pokémon GO, blue skies and sunshine were enough to draw people outside. Often along for the ride to protect their skin was NIVEA. What’s second nature to us today, people still had to be persuaded of 80 years ago: with the first color movie ad from NIVEA from 1936.
Painting women in sun
NIVEA illustration on effect of sunscreen, 1930s

At the beginning of the 20th century, brown skin was a sign of lower status (blue-collar workers, sailors etc.). Along with industrial development in the 1920s, a societal shift began towards more light, air and sun. Between 1920 and 1930 a new kind of backless swimwear appeared, which was considered daring or even immoral.

With more naked skin exposed to the sun, severe sunburns multiplied. It was known that long periods in the sun caused damage, but it hadn’t been taken seriously until then.

The inventor of the jingle

Portrait of Elly Heuss-Knapp, wife of the later first German Federal President Theodor Heuss
Elly Heuss-Knapp (1881-1952) was also very active politically and socially

Since the mid-1920s, there had already been campaigns to expand awareness of the caring effect of NIVEA products to include use when sunbathing. But in 1936, the first color movie ad appeared in the typical NIVEA colors. It was created by Elly Heuss-Knapp, the wife of the later first German Federal President Theodor Heuss.

When both political and publishing work was banned in the Nazi period, the later First Lady worked in the ad world and was very successful there. With the invention of the jingle as an acoustic trademark of a brand, she revolutionized the advertising industry. She composed jingles like this for several companies, including Beiersdorf.

What is the ad about?

Advertising NIVEA Sun creme 1936: Woman is putting on sun creme
The tan shown here matched the idea of beauty of the time, ad 1936

“In the summer, we never sit around the house, the sun always draws us out.” This is how the 70-second ad begins, which was produced using the paper cutting technique. The message at the end was clear: with NIVEA Creme, athletic people can protect their skin from damage from too much sun.

Today in our time, when sunscreen can have an SPF of 50+, it almost seems naïve to recommend a simple skin cream. But products with SPF didn’t exist back then yet. The ad targeted the cream’s ability to provide the skin with moisture – 80 years ago this was the simplest – and the only – way to alleviate the worst consequences of a sunburn. In 1936, the first NIVEA sunscreen product “with increased sun protection” was brought out, but it wasn’t all that popular that year. Moreover, the packaging didn’t keep to white and blue.

80 years ago, the ad for NIVEA as sun protection made a significant contribution to creating the image of the cream as a universal product for every life situation.