August 11, 2009

It's a Mad World

The boyfriend and I just finished watching Season Two of MadMen (and none too soon as Season Three starts this Sunday night). I love this show. I don't care for a lot of television shows as I find most drivel and banal (just how many "Celebreality" shows do we need?) but MadMen I would PVR if I had a PVR.

When I was little there was a show called Bewitched. It was about this friendly witch named Samantha who was married to the mortal, Darrin Stephens. I was a little girl so I of course adored the whole witchy thing, but what I was equally enraptured with was the whole advertising agency thing. Darrin worked at an ad firm called McMann and Tate and he got paid to come up with jingles and ads to sell things. He had a great job and a great house in a great neighbourhood and was married to a witch to boot. How could I not want to grow up and work in an advertising agency?

My first real job was with a company called Conroy Hallworth Adversiting, owned and run by a very nice man named Eric Conroy. He hired me to be his front-desk receptionist for his boutique firm, deep in the heart of what is now the premier King East shopping district of downtown Toronto. At the time it was a questionable part of town, bordering on the red light district of Jarvis Street (premier shopping district of a different sort). But I was in heaven. I watched men and women brainstorm and create and sell and drink and party. Unfortunately this little agency didn't survive the recession of the 80s and the job didn't lead to the type of life I had envisioned. I guess it was a big stretch from agency reception to the bright lights of Sterling Cooper.

I am still fascinated by the business of writing to sell. I'm currently reading The Copywriter's Handbook by Robert W. Bly and believe it or not, it's a fascinating read. The whole point of advertisements and commercials is to sell a product (I know it seems like I'm stating the obvious but start paying attention to commercials). Quite often the products that are being advertised are things we don't want or need, until we see the ad for them. If the ad is effective we will rush to our nearest supermarket and buy up all the McCain Sweet Potato fries we can fit in our shopping cart.

If it's not effective, well...

I had the television on as background noise while reading when the above commercial came on. I stopped what I was doing, mesmerized by the song. I had never heard it before and its eerie notes really stuck with me. I made it my mission to find out the name of the song and the singer. The next time the commercial came on, the boyfriend was in the room and he casually remarked that the song was a big departure from the way Tears For Fears originally released it -- and that it was from a movie called Donnie Darko (which I also had never heard of. I need to get out more!) I rented the movie, loved it and continue to be haunted by the song. But the point I wanted to make here was that I had no idea what the commercial was for. The song stuck, the product didn't. The ad campaign failed.

I'm sure we can all think of ads that we have laughed at (Gary, I'm thinking of the "Most Interesting Man in the World" spots), or cried over or even just scratched our heads at, but that we can't for the life of us remember what they were selling. Maybe this is a good thing. How many more McCain Sweet Potato fries can we eat anyway?

What was the last thing you bought because of an advertisment or commercial? And what commercial has stuck with you (either because it's so good, or so bad)?


drollgirl said...

i love the costumes and sets on mad men, but the story line just didn't do it for me in the beginning. maybe it is better now?

and those stupid dos equis ads make me laugh every time, as do the geiko caveman and messing w/sasquatch commercials. most commercials are DISMISSABLE, but every now and then some are just GOLDEN!

Lianne said...

Ads are certainly part of our culture. Think SuperBowl. Who watches the football?