Mad Men

The War Against Midi-Skirts, the Pro-Nudie Movement and IPG Goes Public: Real Ad Age Headlines From 'Mad Men' Era

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Sunday's season premiere of Mad Men's final season took place in April 1970, a new era for Sterling Cooper -- one when facial and head hair was much shaggier, the clothing was groovier and agency life was much more opressive under the thumb of new owner McCann-Erickson. Don Draper, on the other hand, was back in old form as a conflicted but unrelenting womanizer. And a hosiery client needed to confront the challenge from upstart L'eggs.

But what was the real news of the day? Read on for this season's first installment of "Real Ad Age Headlines From the 'Mad Men' era."

You might say Mr. Carl Jensen helped pave the way for ad-world do-gooderism. In April 1970 the former BBDO VP/account supervisor went all "hippie" and left the agency to go back to school to study sociology at University of California, Santa Barbara. He also opened Apple Pie, a company dedicated to the "development, production, distribution and exhibition of peace oriented audio-visual devices through all forms of mass media." Twenty-five percent of the company's profits would go to a peace trust fund supporting anti-war groups. "If more business men were to turn their energies and skills to critical social issues, perhaps the nation wouldn't be the frightening place it is today," Mr. Jensen said.

Much was made of McCann's new ownership of Sterling Cooper & Partners in last Sunday's episode, but in the real world, the big news was that McCann owner Interpublic was going public. In 1969, Interpublic agencies billed an estimated $727,260,000 and had net profits of $4,778,206. Observers predicted a 27% public offering, which paralleled that of J.Walter Thompson.

Sunday's episode highlighted the sexist boys' club that was advertising, via the lens of new Sterling Cooper owners McCann-Erickson, whose staffers couldn't get enough of Joan's "assets" in what was meant to be a serious meeting. Seems like this ad for Leland Tube Company continues that sentiment, highlighting the model's "prime ribs" to shill the company's alloy tubing. What a stretch.

But the boys' club wasn't the only one making meat of women. This article reports on how some "gals" at Wunderman had launched a "war" against midi-length skirts (whose hemlines hit midway between knee and ankle), which were coming into fashion at the time, as you can see in Sunday's episode. After a meeting in the agency "powder room," the women declared such skirts as "saggy, baggy and unbecoming. ... Our men don't like them." Agency Copywriter/Supervisor Jacqueline Stern estimated that at least 90% of the agency supported the movement. "The men are behind it," she said, "because one, they like minis and the arrival of midis on the fashion scene means they'll have to buy their wives and girlfriends new wardrobes."

This April 1 article from Ad Age wasn't making a joke when it reported that Interpublic VP June Colbert was defending the use of sex in advertising. The article noted that during a panel exploring nudity, pornography and promotion sponsored by the Sales Promotion Executives Association, Ms. Colbert said that sex should just be considered another tool of the trade -- just like layout and copy. "Nudity and the risque are part of the contemporary world and the fact is that today's advertising and sales promotion men live in today's world and do not live in a vacuum."

Scanlan's Monthly, a short-lived muckracking publication that ran from March 1970 to January 1971, came under fire for doctoring a Lufthansa ad to feature some "Nazi touches." The ad parodied one created out of D'Arcy Advertising bearing the tagline "Think twice about Germany." But instead of featuring the pleasant scenes of the original, it depicted a horrific image of a woman, hands bound as a soldier prepared to flail her. Another picture showed soldiers giving the "Heil, Hitler" salute. Sidney Zion, co-founder of the mag, said the original ad was "natural" for parody because "It seemed awfully odd for Lufthansa to be using a line like, 'Think Twice about Germany.'"

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