Posts Tagged ‘advertising’

Over the last few days, the internet has ooed and aahed over a viral marketing campaign from Old Spice.  In just two days, a production team and a charming actor named Isaiah Mustafa created 183 short videos; instead of paying for TV airtime, Old Spice simply uploaded them to YouTube.  It was the kind of bombshell that the creative minds at Sterling Cooper could only dream of.

The fictional ad agency at the center of Mad Men, Sterling Cooper is late to the game on a lot of ideas. The show’s writers often appropriate real advertising campaigns of the 60s for their plot lines.  In an early episode, creative director Don Draper opens up a magazine to the iconic Volkswagen “Lemon” ad; Maidenform’s racy bra campaigns push them to propose a sexier set of ads to their client, the more conservative Playtex.

The last season ended in November 1963, so I’d bet money that this season uses the famous “Daisy” ad from Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 campaign, which startled the nation by linking Barry Goldwater to nuclear war.  (It was yanked from the airwaves, but replayed often on news outlets; you can see 1964 ads from both candidates at the Museum of the Moving Image’s website.)  “Daisy” was designed by Doyle Dan Bernbach, a firm that Mad Men’s writers have already co-opted as one of Sterling Cooper’s competitors.

And Mad Men has itself become the subject of real-life ad campaigns.  Banana Republic and Brooks Brothers have both used Mad Men to entice men to make like dapper Draper and his boss, the slick Roger Sterling.  Last fall, Studio 360’s Eric Molinsky explored the Draper fetish among American slobs, and you can hear it here.

— Becky Sullivan

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Advertisements are a nuisance.  The giant ones plastered on billboards and buildings all over major cities – those are eyesores.  However, in the new short documentary “Up There,” director Michael Murray may have just articulated a compelling reason for their existence.

“Up There” follows a group of commercial painters as they work on an ad campaign for Stella Artois.  Their livelihood — hand-painting giant pictures on the sides of buildings — has been decimated by the ubiquity of hanging vinyl ads, which are cheaper, quicker, and less dangerous to put up.  Factoring in competition from electronic signage, it’s easy to understand why these guys are a dying breed.

If you’re like me and thought it’s been decades since advertisements were painted on buildings, you’ll need to start reexamining the advertising that towers over you.  Look at the glass of beer against a brick façade.  If you didn’t know, Would you ever guess that someone painted that?  That it isn’t just a massive photograph hung up there?  The idea of a couple of guys suspended high above New York City on ropes, painting only a few square feet at a time, is like pointillism a la Gulliver’s Travels, with Lilliputians on platforms gradually completing a work of art that will ultimately dwarf them.  As one of the painters in “Up There” observes, it’s actually like what Michelangelo did in the Sistine Chapel.

It’s already a bit surreal that we treat our buildings as if they were rock formations to carve messages into, or naked landscapes begging to be clothed.  Seeing it happen is even weirder, and the film evokes a startling amount of sympathy for these painters and their impressive, totally-ignored craft.  The story is almost heartbreaking and the work is amazing.  Sure, it’s just advertising; but for all the gaudiness of huge commercial images, somehow these don’t make my eyes sore.

– Stephen Reader

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