Mar 21 2010

The Conquest of Cool

Published by at 12:20 pm under Reflection Blog,Uncategorized

I have always imagined the sixties as a time of youth counterculture versus the government/ establishment and gave little or no thought to the business culture of advertising that was attempting to evolve to these rebel consumers.  Thomas Frank, in The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism, shows how advertisers changed in the sixties from the methods they had in the fifties to appeal to the mindset of the new consumers of the counterculture movement. In class we watched and episode of the show Mad Men, which represents everything Frank is dealing with in his text, about how people in the sixties began to not want to follow the norms of what had worked before, instead they wanted to be unique.

Frank goes on to talk about how advertisers in the fifties appealed to peoples happiness by showing an all white smiling family, people of the sixties were tired of this type of advertisement and we not buying in to these type of ads anymore. So ad companies altered their mindset and brought creativity in to the boardrooms to create ads that would sell to these liberated individuals. One discovery that was made was market segmentation, “the discovery of demographics and now commonplace insight that targeting slightly different products to specific groups of consumers is significantly more effective than manufacturing a uniform product”(23). DDB was one company that was able to really grasp the concept of what these new consumers were looking for.  DDB was able to take the controversial “Nazi design” Volkswagen car and transform it in to a best selling car in the United States. All this had to do with how they created ads for the car, ads contained only the car and were simple and they had clever ad pitches.  The image of the Volkswagen became one of a car that never went obsolete. Which suited in with this hip culture that always wanted the latest fad. “The Volkswagen story, in other words, is the co-optation story turned upside down, a clear simple product marketed as an emblem of good-humored alienation and largely accepted as such by the alienated”(68). This time became the start of the Creative Revolution that occurred in the advertising world, where advertising companies opened up with the thought of pushing forward art and aesthetics in to their ads. Frank discusses the Theory X and Theory Y in his book as being part of the how ad companies treated their workers as helping to alter the way ads were developed. In Theory X the employee is to be coerced and directed, while in Theory Y the employee is able to be freer and is rewarded with progress toward an objective. “ The primary goal of unleashing all of this creativity was not to overthrow capitalism, of course, or even to make the workplace happier, but to jump start the engine of change- the ‘permanent revolution’- that drove consumer culture”(94). In class we related these two theories to Apple and PC computers. Apple (Theory Y) and PC (Theory X) both are appealing to audiences in different ways. PC calls itself the people’s computer (ads showing families and the slogan “I’m a PC” , while Apple uses funny pitches and prides itself on being different( counterculture) and not your average computer, it allows you to be you.

We seen in class in all the ads we viewed that as the ads evolved pictures evoked more emotions and words became just background noise. Frank’s book was an interesting take on the reproduction of ads and I liked seeing his view on how this changed took place inside the industry itself. His take on how consumerism is impacted by change was interesting and it was historically relatable.

Comments Off on The Conquest of Cool

Comments are closed at this time.