With the new season of Mad Men here, we started reminiscing about the ad campaigns that Don Draper and his creatives worked on during the past two seasons. Sterling Cooper has devised ads and identities for such well-known brands as Kodak, Lucky Strike, and Playtex. The campaigns and pitch proposals vividly evoke the early 1960s and serve as key plot points. Would Don and Betty have had all their marital woes last season if not for Sterling Cooper hiring comedian Jimmy Barrett to shill for Utz potato chips and Don using Betty as a one-person secret focus group for Heineken? Exactly. But what really happened to those brands and those campaigns back in the day? When did real life trump Mad Men? Read on and find out.
MAD WORLD: During the series premiere, set in 1960, Sterling Cooper creative director Don Draper coins the slogan "It's Toasted!" to lessen consumer worry about the effects of poisonous chemicals in Lucky Strike's sultry smokes.
REAL WORLD: Lucky Strike, first introduced in 1905, began using the "It's Toasted!" slogan in 1917 to inform customers of their toasty processing, rather than the alternative (and decidedly less taste-bud tantalizing) sun-dried method. Another slogan, "L.S.M.F.T (Lucky Strike means fine tobacco.)," was printed on the packaging starting the same year. The ad pictured left featuring astronaut Bill Lundigan in 1959 is one that a real-life Sterling Cooper-style agency produced at that time.
MAD WORLD: Right Guard has tapped Sterling Cooper to help it sell its new product, the first aerosol deodorant for men. Paul proposes an astronaut who loves his sweat spray, but Don disagrees because the futuristic angle could scare off buyers, and women, not men, will likely be the ones buying the product. The ad has to appeal to women, Draper says, but none of the men who work for him can flesh out just how to do it--until Draper himself has an epiphany.
REAL WORLD: Women played a key role in at least some of the advertising for this masculine odor-ouster during its introduction in the early 1960's. In fact, they still are today.
MAD WORLD: After running across an ad for the Volkswagen Beetle where "Lemon" is the ad's ironic tagline, the Sterling Cooper crew begins a discussion about its effectiveness. Leader of the pack, Don finally ends the conversation with, "Love it or hate it, the fact is, we've been talking about it for the last 15 minutes."
REAL WORLD: Doyle Dane Bernbach used the "Think Small" Campaign to introduce the German VW Beetle to 1960's America. The ad explained that due to careful inspection, the chrome strip on the glove compartment of this particular Beetle was blemished, therefore shaming the bug a "Lemon." The message: With high standards like these, VW Beetles must be well-built cars. The ad is as classic as the car it advertised: Advertising Age named it the number-one campaign of the 20th Century.
MAD WORLD: SC's creative team breaks into brainstorm mode for industrial giant Bethlehem Steel. Each has an easel to present with slogans such as, "New York City, brought to you by Bethlehem Steel Company," for several major American cities. The CEO, unimpressed, awaits Don to throw him another pitch. He comes up with an "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" theme, and with the company's owner still unimpressed, he decides on a pitch from Pete: "Bethlehem Steel is the backbone of America."
REAL WORLD: Born in the tiny town of Bethlehem, PA, Bethlehem Steel was one of the largest shipbuilding companies in the world. In the 60s and 70s, the company prospered and was considered a "backbone" of American industrial manufacturing--building bridges, railways, and even houses. Bethlehem went bankrupt in 2001; we hasten to add that its image advertising was not the problem. The company could not compete with cheap foreign labor, in addition to the U.S. economy's shift away from heavy manufacturing.
MAD WORLD: Following a test group for Belle Jolie Lipstick, secretary Peggy proves she's quite the wordsmith when she calls a trash can full of lipstick blotted tissues a "basket of kisses." The team decides to use her womanly knowledge, letting her help write copy for the ad. They present the slightly progressive, "Mark Your Man" ad. When the Belle Jolie reps complain that the ad doesn't include multiple lipstick colors, Fred Rumsen rather cryptically explains, "Every woman wants choices, but in the end, none wants to be one in a box of a hundred. You are giving every girl who wears your lipstick the gift of total ownership." This is Peggy's first step on the way up professionally.
REAL WORLD: Belle Jolie is a fictional company, but real-life ads, such as the 1965 ad by Little Ritz Girl, used similar modern themes to woo its customers: "A gentleman must be warned not to be deluded by the innocence...of Little Ritz Girl. For behind this new makeup there breathes a most sophisticated woman." Others, such as Cutex's 1961 ad, steered clear of controversial ideas and concentrated on the color selection of their product.
MAD WORLD: Kodak is introducing its new slide projector to the world, and who better to brand it than Don Draper? After many episodes of marital woes and infidelity, Don presents the projector to his clients in bittersweet reminiscence of his own life, flipping through pictures of his wife and kids, while explaining, "This is not a spaceship, it's a time machine. It goes backwards and forwards, and it takes us to a place where we ache to go again." Landing on the ad at the end of the slideshow, he proclaims tearily, "It's called 'The Carousel.' It lets us travel around and around and back home again."
REAL WORLD: Kodak actually introduced the Carousel in the Spring of 1962 with print advertisements in National Geographic magazine. It is recognized as the most common projector of its kind.
MAD WORLD: Jimmy Barrett, a popular insult comic, is shooting a commercial for Utz Potato Chips. In the process, he manages to stir up a lot of trouble, but only after finishing the commercial with the chip's slogan, "Utz are better than nutz."
REAL WORLD: The Utz commercial and slogan used on Mad Men are fictitious. According to Alec Sivel, Utz's director of marketing, the company did not know that Mad Men built a story around the regional favorite. Utz has said that it's flattered by the recognition but the chip-munching Utz girl has been the long-time icon of the small-town brand, which most recently used the slogan "You can get 'em, too bad for the rest of the world."
MAD WORLD: Playtex comes to Sterling Cooper in hopes that they can spice up the company's prudish image to compete with Maidenform's fantasy-oriented ads. The pitch: A sexy, albeit chauvinistic, Jackie/Marilyn campaign, in which Sterling Cooper stresses that every woman wants to be Jackie Kennedy or Marilyn Monroe, much to Peggy's chagrin. The Playtex suits decide to stick with their conservative image, but take the men--plus Peggy--to a strip club for their hard work.
REAL WORLD: The Mad Men were spot on, at least as far as Playtex's image (we know of no secret meetings where Playtex considered sexing it up a bit). Specializing in girdles and touting the slogan, "Making your day better every day," traditional Playtex never quite had the sex appeal of Maidenform's racy "I dreamed I...in my Maidenform bra," ads featuring half-dressed women thrusting their chests in the air as they happily performed daily tasks.
MAD WORLD: At a dinner party for some of Don's clients, his wife Betty plans a "Trip-Around-the-World"-themed dinner in which she picks up a case of Heineken beer as a taste from Holland. She becomes embarrassed by the laughter of Don's colleagues when she finds out that her husband had set up a promotion for the beer in grocery stores targeting upper-class housewives like her, and she fell for it.
REAL WORLD: 1960's beer ads often targeted housewives featuring their beers alongside lavishly decorated tables and hearty spreads of food. Heineken was no exception.
What's next for Season 3 starting Sunday, August 16? With the Mad Women digging in their high heels, a shift of power can most certainly be predicted. Will Sterling Cooper's success begin to decline? Creator Matt Weiner told The New York Times Magazine, "Sterling Cooper is not cutting-edge. It's mired in the past." Will Peggy walk in the real-life footsteps of "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz" mastermind Mary Wells Lawrence and ditch old-fashioned SC to found her own digs? And which ads and products will drive the story this season? We can hardly wait to find out.