The Footnotes of Mad Men: Suburban Rococo

Oh, no! The world is tugging away at Don Draper’s individuality one thread at a time! First it started with the sexy maypole teacher pointing out that Don’s nihilistic quest for self-indulgence is no different from all the other ‘bored’ Ossissingite daddies-he’s even donning the same shirt as them! Then Roger characterizes Don’s personal brand as someone else’s (The Ogs). Some barbituated crazed kids think of him as just another spook (the nerve of those wayward hippies!). And Don’s own hearth, the place where he puts up his feet and thinks about the majestic Mohawk nation, has been invaded by a home designer who undoubtedly has put the same ‘modern Chinoiserie‘ design into the homes of hundreds of other stylish couples. I guess none of us can be too different, huh? We’re all muscle and blood after all.

§ Throwing open her arms, the matronly designer introduces Don to his new living room. A kind of suburban rococo design with Eastern flourishes. The first piece: a ‘Chinoiserie breakfront.’ Chinoiserie is just a fancy French way of saying “sort of Asian.” Chinoiserie became all the rage in 18th century France when Louis XIV decorated Versiailles with new andmost fanciful European interpretations of Chinese styles. It had a resurgence in 20th century design. Next to the breakfront, is a ‘Japanese influenced Dunbar couch.’ The low slung, brass footed loveseat is a fixture of mid-century design but the Japanese twist is a direct toss to Bert Cooper’s Japonisme-themed office . (WHO MAKES UP THESE DESIGN TERMS?!) Japonisme is, yes, a French term that translates into Japanism. There was a heightened interest in Japanese graphic arts, textiles and fashion at the turn of the century (similar to the Western love affair with Art Nouveau).

According to the Met, early woodcut prints that made their way west showed that “simple, transitory, everyday subjects from ‘the floating world’ could be presented in appealingly decorative ways.” Hmm. So then we take it that both Roger and Bert seeped their way into the Draper home this week!

§ Then, of course, there was much discussion of Footnotes’ favorite, David Ogilvy. The Ogs’ 1963 book ‘Confessions of an Ad Man’ is like a compendium of very clever bumper stickers about how to be a smart, classy man in advertising and in general. It reads like magazine writing; punchy and easily digestible. For instance:

H.L. Mencken once said that nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public. That is not true. I have come to believe that it pays to make all your layouts project a feeling of good taste, provided that you do it unobtrusively. An ugly layout suggests an ugly product. There are very few products which do not benefit from being given a first-class ticket through life.

Ogilvy’s books are core curriculum in ad school, so understandably some modern young ad men tend to sneer at the Ogs philosophy. I asked Awl-pal and young(ish) advertising guru, Mark the Copyranter about his relationship with Ogs:

NVC: How am I supposed to feel about Ogilvy’s eyepatch ad? I’M CONFLICTED.
MC: Ah, the very successful Hathaway man, campaign, of course. But stupid, nonetheless. I read ‘Ogilvy On Advertising’… a long time ago. Didn’t much care for his theories because I was a YOUNG AD REBEL
NVC: When you rebel against Ogilvy what are you rebelling against?
MC: British stuffiness, copy-heavy logical ads. The visual is the hero, baby! Any good madman believes this and was taught this in ad school… It’s better to dramatically visualize a product’s benefit, than say it. Because, then you can exaggerate (LIE) without as much rebuke. Plus, it looks cooler in one’s portfolio.

Ah, could you imagine what Don’s flash portfolio would look like? (With a Tumblr attached!) Wish I had a fainting couch to swoon on.

§ Speaking of sumptuous items that would only lead to our panties tangled about the ankles, what do you think Peggy’s Hermes scarf looked like!? Well it could have been Jackie O’s Hermes zodiac-themed kind, or this perfectly girly number adorned with pink butterflies. Or how about this purple scarf patterned with DUCKS! Wonder how many other girls were wrapped in such “elegance and success”?

So how hard to stand out nowadays.

So very much more can be found at The Footnotes of Mad Men.