Great news! Duke University's TV commercial collections spanning from the 1940s to the present, have gone online. From the website:
"The AdViews digital collection provides access to thousands of historic commercials created for clients or acquired by the D'Arcy Masius Benton and Bowles advertising agency or its predecessor during the 1950s - 1980s. All of the commercials held in the DMBB Archives will be digitized, allowing students and researchers access to a wide range of vintage brand advertising from the first four decades of mainstream commercial television."AdViews is a collaborative project between the Digital Collections Program and the Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, as well as a number of other groups, at Duke University.
Ads can be searched by keywords, company name, product, and by date. There are also broader categories to browse such as "Health and Beauty," "Transportation and Travel," "Food and Beverage," among others.
Note: To view the ads one needs to open them in iTunes. That appears to be the only option.