Sunday, October 18, 2015

BOOK NOTE: Mid-Century Ads -- Advertising from the MAD MEN Era

Note: This review was originally posted on 11/7/14. I've (temporarily) put it back up top, 
for those who are beginning to experience bigtime withdrawl, 
now that Mad Men is off the air.

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Mid-Century Ads: Advertising from the Mad Men Era  
Taschen, hardcover, 2 vols. in slipcase, 720 pages, more than 300 illustrations$ 59.99

Another winner from Taschen, this two-volume set chronicles America’s love affair with consumerism, which blossomed in the decades following World War II. Stylish and evocative magazine advertising, dubbed “colorful capitalism”, was then the gold standard of modern marketing. At agencies such as Mad Men’s fictional Sterling Cooper, ad men  -- and occasional women, like the ambitious Peggy -- relied on human feedback (not clicks on a computer), wit and intuition. 

Mid-Century Ads is replete with crisp, forward-looking images of everything from cars to toothpaste, air travel to home appliances, vividly showcasing the plethora of goods and services that American consumers yearned for. (Among the vibrant images in volume one, covering the 1950s, are pink typewriters, lime green bathroom fixtures and an orange convertible.) 

By the 1960s, the industry’s efforts became focused on “The Big Idea”: ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­building name recognition through “relentless bombardment of amusing slogans and images.” Advertising turned more flamboyant -- eventually psychedelic -- and suggestive, reflecting the freewheeling sexual mores of the decade. With their seductive imagery and chipper attitude, these ads made consumers feel that the objects of their desires were just within reach.

Yum -- canned spaghetti!


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