Off the back of this, I recently started reading The Real Mad Men, a book by Andrew Cracknell (published by Quercus). As the title suggests, it tells the story of a creative revolution in marketing communications during the late '50s/ early '60s. A great read but sadly there was no A2 pull-out of the lovely Christina Hendrix (above).
In the same way that a relative handful of musicians changed the face of popular music in that era, a handful of ad men/ women revolutionised the way brands spoke to their customers.
Previously, advertisers had very much taken on a teacher-pupil dynamic. The product/ brand was king. Advertising messages and images existed only in some idealised other-world. The consumer had better just shut up, listen and buy! "Tense, nervous headache? Buy Anadin" or something along those lines.
Pioneers such as Bill Bernbach and George Lois turned that dynamic on its head. Take a look at some of the most celebrated work from that era:
Ads like these set a new benchmark for what made great marketing communications. Ads written by humans, for humans.
The style was conversational; more like sharing a joke with a friend rather than preaching from a pulpit. They were witty, intriguing, seductive and most importantly respected the consumers' intelligence.
Rather than spelling it out in big broad cliches, the copy invited the reader to participate in the ad and put in a tiny bit of effort to get the joke and close the message. By encouraging this interactivity, the consumer engaged with the ad and subsequently the product and brand.
The artwork was revolutionary too. The product was not shown in some glossy, clean perfect 'advertising' environment–it was shown as belonging to the real world.
The legacy of those early pioneers still resonates in the best of today's marcomms work.
The recent John Lewis Christmas TV campaign didn't bash the consumer over the head with some crass hard-sell. It understood the consumer as a human being, understood a basic human need and told a simple human story, beautifully.
Likewise, marketers are now beginning to successfully work more creatively online. Check out the Dulux 'lets colour' project which used an online platform to generate a fantastic consumer-driven global PR event.
So let's raise a glass (probably a scotch on rocks) to the Mad Men!