If the advertisements in this mammoth volume were the sole
artifacts a historian used to examine and analyze the turbulent
Sixties, a picture of American culture would emerge that bears
scant resemblance to social and political realities of the times.
Where are the blacks, Latinos, and Asians? Viewed from this vantage
point, the Sixties had no civil rights to protest, Vietnam War, or
sex, drugs and rock and roll -- at least not in any meaningful way.
The advertisements here, exhumed from the crypts of Madison Avenue
as mummified in the mass magazines of the day, were sanitized,
homogenized, and cauterized, which is not to say that they did not
have style, taste, or humor, or that they do not represent the
zeitgeist in a jaundiced way.
Advertising is, after all, artificial truth. Of course, certain
claims are accurate -- makeup hides blemishes, soda is sweet, bad
breath smells, headaches hurt, and sunglasses shade the eyes.
Definitely, by the Sixties, phony snake oil and patent medicine
advertisements from the turn of the century were long since
abolished. Yet advertising, especially at this time, was
nonetheless designed to outsmart, outdo, and outsell competition no
matter what it was, through whatever means were tolerable within
the parameters of so-called "truth in advertising" doctrines --
which is a concept akin to acceptable amounts of rat hair in food.
Fabrications and exaggerations existed, but no one cared because
the images, words and concepts toed the line between the possible
and the preposterous.
What's more, by the early Sixties postwar Americans were happily
conditioned to believe anything that mass media put forth, and
advertising was embraced without question or hesitation.
Consequently, many magazine ads and TV commercials were viewed more
as entertainment -- or pastimes -- than as crass sales pitches.