Mad Men Footnotes

If you google “The Footnotes of Mad Men,” your first hit will be an abject failure in both name and execution.

Glossy out-of-context ads from the 60’s.  I’m referring to a site called Mad Men Unbuttoned that’s run by Natasha Vargas-Cooper who also runs an actual footnotes series for the awl.  It’s ok.

(By ok, I mean rarely compelling, frequently lazy, poorly executed, and shallow.  Not exactly what I expect from a footnote.)

Adam Curtis at the BBC, however, does exponentially better:

The story begins at the end of the 1950s. There were two distinct camps on Madison Avenue. And they loathed each other.

One group was led by Rosser Reeves who ran the Ted Bates agency. Reeves had invented the idea of the USP – the unique selling point. You found a phrase that summed up your product and you repeated it millions and millions of times on all media so it “penetrated” the minds of the consumers.

His favourite was Lucky Strike’s “It’s Toasted” […]

The other camp were known as “the depth boys”. They believed the opposite. That you penetrated the consumer’s mind by using all sorts of subtle psychological techniques to find out what they really wanted. These were feelings the consumer often didn’t even consciously realise themselves.It was called ‘Motivational Research’.

One of the leading “depth boys” was the wonderfully named Norman B. Norman who ran the Norman Craig & Kummel agency. […]

Behind the techniques of people like Norman were a group of Viennese and German psychologists and psychoanalysts who had come to America as refugees in the 1930s.

One of the most important and influential was one of the few women high up in the Madison Avenue of that time. Dr Herta Herzog. […]

In the first episode of the first series of Mad Men, Dr Herzog is parodied. “Dr Greta Guttman” comes in to tell Don Draper that because of growing evidence of the link between lung cancer and smoking the only way to sell Lucky Strike cigarettes is to link them to the Death Wish.

In the scene Mad Men is dramatising, the war that was going on in Madison Avenue. Draper is obviously modelled on Rosser Reeves who hated the psychologists. In the scene Draper is rude and hostile to Dr Guttman and drops her research in the bin.

Later in the episode Draper invents the slogan – “It’s Toasted” for Lucky Strike. It was Rosser Reeve’s favourite USP.

See why I like this better than some generic tarted up review?  It reads like an actual series of footnotes and it deepens our understanding of the show and the time it depicts.  Past is prelude, so in turn, our understanding of our own time is deepened as well.  After reading this, AMC’s Mad Men seems to serve this little BBC article more than any other article has ever seemed to serve the show.

Interesting footnote about the source: BBC has a proprietary embedded video player just like everyone else and it has an adjustable volume knob also just like everybody else’s.  Only theirs goes up to eleven.

[Adam Curtis @ BBC via the Browser]

[image via Rolling Stone]

September 7, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Reading. Leave a comment.

Sweet Headphones, Sally

[via Aziz is Bored]

August 21, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Funny. Leave a comment.