Ah, the Golden Age. What does it really mean? The phrase comes from Greek mythology and refers to a time of peace, harmony, stability and prosperity.
For Advertising, the Golden Age of the 50’s through the 70’s meant power and prosperity for agencies and advertisers. This was the age that brought out some of the most revered and famous advertisers. Some of the big players that came to power during this period were David Ogilvy (of Volkswagon fame), Leo Burnett (created the Jolly Green Giant), and of course Don Draper (fictional character of TV show ‘Mad Men’ and one of my personal fashion icons).
What made advertising such a powerhouse in the business world during this time? That’s a great question. I’m glad you asked. There were many booms post WWII: babies, families, and wealth. People had more money to spend on products than they did before. There was also a new invention called the television that was taking over living rooms across the country. The TV made it possible to put advertising messages directly in front of an attentive audience.
TV was also a more effective advertising medium because of the mix of senses that it appealed to: sight, sound, and motion. Before TV, there was only magazines, posters, billboards, and direct mail. You can imagine, maybe even remember, how people in those times were fascinated with everything they were seeing, even if they were being sold.
So today, we will explore what made this time the Golden Age, namely the power that advertising agencies held to tell consumers what they needed.
Now a lot of these ads appeal to one’s desire to look a certain way. That look is apparently thin and white. I couldn’t find many ads featuring people of other races. Interesting, right? These also seem to appeal to individuality. The ad for suntan lotion’s tag “Your own suntan stuff” is a great example of that point.
Ads didn’t only appeal to looks. They appealed to this new found wealth as illustrated in these next couple of ads for cars. In the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s cars were synonymous with wealth and power and these ads appealed to that.
Ads also appealed to traditional family values like nuclear families and dad being the bread winner. You didn’t see many ads targeted to single moms or divorced dads.
Companies would also invent gimmicks (Jolly Green Giant) and use celebrities to spread their messages.
And finally, there was an energy crisis in the early 1970’s. These guys thought they would capitalize on that. Little did they know…
So there’s an overview of what the Golden Age of Advertising. Next time, we’ll dive into some of the greats that rose to greatness during this time. That’s the fun stuff. I’m looking forward to it. I hope you are, too.