Sunday, September 07, 2008

Mad Men Revisited

Because comments on previous posts tend to be buried from view, I'd like to thank Mark Krone in this post by bringing his recent comments to the fore . . .

Mark Krone has left a new comment on your post "Through the Looking Glass, Light and Dark":

Aside from the banishment of ashtrays and the disappearance of IBM typewriters, the atmosphere these days must be less sexually creepy for women, though since I am not one, I may be wrong. Much of the harassment takes place behind shut doors and around corners, so it is hard to know until someone says they've had enough.

One or several of the characters in Mad Men is apparently based on my late father, who was a well-known art director at Doyle, Dane and Bernbach, the agency that did the VW and Avis ads in the early 1960s. He designed the ads and worked with a copywriter for the content. He was not pleasant to be around most of the time but I doubt that he was boorish to women. Cheap comments and furtive pinches were not his style, though he was a horrible husband.

One thing that I can safely say about him and his fellow ad men is, they took themselves very seriously. They knew their ads were having an impact not only with consumers but on the culture. My father would say things like, "we started a revolution" -- grandiose stuff like that. This was at a time (1960s) of actual political chaos here and abroad and I remembering picturing him in his Madison Avenue office, at his work board in front of the two barcelona chairs and his desk where he rarely sat and then picturing college students at Kent St or demonstrators patcipating in Prague Spring and thinking that he was full of bullshit.

But then again, he was an ad man and like one of Norman Mailer's book titles, Advertisements For Myself, these ad guys were salesmen who often worked harder on selling themselves than any of their products.


See also Helmut Krone, The Book: Graphic Design and Art Direction (Concept, Form and Meaning) After Advertising's Creative Revolution (2005).

Today's Runes: The Mystery Rune; Fortune.


lulu said...

Wow, that's absolutely fascinating. I bought season one this summer while I was in the States, and we are slowly watching it. (We have Mad Men nights with cocktails).

My parents love the show, and my mother says that it is depressingly accurate. She gets very angry when women my age don't appreciate what her generation did to free us from that life.

(She also mentioned that the reason the women look so good in their clothing is that everyone wore girdles all of the time. I'm so not willing to do that).

Charles Gramlich said...

I hate to say it, but it strikes me as very sad that ads actually have impact on the culture as a whole and the mindset of folks. Sad.

the walking man said...

I wonder if "ad men" are still starting revolutions or have they come to know that everything in life is for sale whether they ply their trade or not.

Anonymous said...

The siege starts with the appearance, or not? Beijus,

Mark Krone said...

I agree with Charles Gramlich completely on the pernicious effect that advertising has had on our society.

Many people, especially young people, now view themselves as consumers first -- rather than members of a human community. How are we supposed to solve problems (environmental degradation, for one) that may require a reduction in consumption when people define themselves by what they own, wear, etc.

Advertising gives us candidates packaged in ways that obfuscate rather than reveal who they are and where they stand.

Gov. Palin, anyone? Portrayed as a cost cutter, she left a $22 million deficit in Wasilla, AK. Packaged as anti-earmark, she hired a lobbyist to work in Washington to obtain earmarks. Sold as post-partisan, she introduced hyper-partisan politics to Wasilla, when it had been a relatively non-partisan town.

Speaking of political advertising, I have attempted without success to track down a quote attributed to President Kennedy, regarding advertising for his 1964 re-election campaign, “Get me the man who does the VW ads.” There is no doubt that he wanted Doyle, Dane and Bernbach (DDB) to design his ads (his brother-in-law, Stephen Smith, hired the agency). JFK was an avid magazine reader and had noticed the VW ads. After his assassination, President Johnson was told DDB was Kennedy’s agency of choice and he decided to use them, too. For LBJ, DDB came up with the infamous ad of the young girl plucking pedals off a daisy while an announcer gravely reminded viewers that “the stakes are too high” to elect the extremist, Barry Goldwater. The commercial ends with footage of an atomic bomb going off. Known as a “Democratic” agency, President Nixon later put one of the agency’s founders, Maxwell Dane, on his enemies list, paying him the highest complement.

Mark Krone

Lana Gramlich said...

I still say advertising is the evil side of psychology at work, one of the very roots of our all-too-Orwellian world. :(

JR's Thumbprints said...

There are so many things that influence people. Ads, songs, movies, fashion ... etc. I see many prisoners who've bought into a concept, lived it, and now are locked behind bars for going too far.

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