Footnotes of Mad Men: From Lubricated to Morose

Footnotes of Mad Men: From Lubricated to Morose

by Natasha Vargas-Cooper


Don Draper didn’t know his father, so he examines figures of male authority that he dreads becoming. One is Roger Sterling. Unfortunately, Don’s current trajectory points to a Sterling finish. Right now, he’s an entitled lush who skips out on his family, cuts corners, sleeps with the secretaries and-worst of all-he settles for mediocre copy. One day you’re taking a drunken self-congratulatory lap around a conference room of potential clients, the next day you’re in a dusty corner office wistfully dictating your memoir to a bored secretary.


• The Vicks Chemical Company for which Peggy and the beastly art director strip down to brainstorm plays a significant role in the liturgy of advertising. Vicks is where Draper Daniels got his start in the industry. The Chemical Company offered aspiring ad men a crack at copywriting in their New York offices if they spent a year in the field pitching Vicks’ products door to door. “A salesman,” Daniels wrote in his autobiography, Giants, Pygmies and other Advertising People, “traveling, or otherwise, was the last thing in the world I wanted to be, but the ‘plus expenses and a car [offer]’ shattered any sales resistance.” After a year of canvassing the South in the name of cough syrup and vapor rub, Daniels landed in the New York headquarters and was eventually hired by Young and Rubicam, the premier ad agency of the 1940s. Per Daniels: ‘Young and Rubicam was heaven, or the next door to it, and God’s name was Rubicam.”


• Cold medicine also served as a histamine-free muse for one of the other advertising greats: Julian Koenig.

Koenig, a copywriter, and George Lois, art director, were the first ad and copy team to break off and start their own boutique company (Papert, Koenig, Lois) after their success with the Volkswagen campaign (Think Small and Lemon) at Doyle Dane Bernbach. The upstart ad agency garnered a good deal of esteem in 1964 when their commercial for Xerox nabbed a Clio for this quite dry but very effective ad.

• The April 1965 copy of Playboy that the Stan was thumbing through featured the following pieces:

— An interview: Art Buchwald

— Excerpt from ‘Man With The Golden Gun’ by Ian Fleming

— “The Force of Habit” by oil tycoon J. Paul Getty.


Getty had this to say:

The individual who wants to reach the top in business must appreciate the might of the force of habit and must understand that practices are what create habits. He must be quick to break those habits that can break him and hasten to adopt those practices that will become the habits that help him achieve the success he desires.

• So what of the ‘Klan-ad’ cameo in the new art director’s resume?

This was part of the historic Lyndon Johnson presidential campaign against Barry Goldwater from 1964. President Johnson hired DDB to produce the spots. The Klan commercial never ran, largely because the first spot in the series caused such a furious reaction from the GOP and television viewers. This was the Daisy spot.

(Better resolution here.)

It only ran once but that was enough (50 million people were watching). News programs ran the ad, newspapers covered the reactions: anyone who hadn’t seen the ad was sure to have been told about it. The GOP chairman, Dean Burch, filed a formal complaint to the Fair Election Practices committee: “This horror-type commercial is designed to arouse basic emotions and has no place in this campaign.”

Well, Burch was right. “The commercial evoked a deep feeling in many people that Goldwater might actually use nuclear weapons,” said Tony Schwartz, the ad-man responsible for Daisy and the never aired Klan spot. Schwartz, whose major client before the White House was American Airlines, also said: “the stimuli of the film and sound evoked these feelings and allowed people to express what they inherently believed.”

There is, however, no Clio award to be had in the category of political advertising.

You can always find more footnotes by Natasha Vargas-Cooper right here, or, you know, you can get a whole book of ‘em.