The Commercial with a Sensayuma

Being in advertising on television is hard. Darrin on Bewitched was in advertising. I recall a campaign of insects walking into a bank with this tagline, “Even the little people matter at Bank Such and Such.” At 8 I knew this was a bad ad campaign. Insects are creepy, and the subtext of the message is patronizing at best. On Mad Men, Don Draper won an award for a commercial with a tiny chuck wagon. I assume this is based on the Chuck Wagon commercial from 1970. Recently, Peggy described an ad with a ballet of beans. I assume this shift is talking about the changes in advertising from the 1950s through the 1960s.

When I’m teaching, I show a 1958 Edsel ad to explain a boring ad. It’s a photo of a car and the copy tells me it’s a car. On the other end of the spectrum is a campaign like the Levy’s Rye Bread campaign from 1964. I see the product, but the copy asks me to do some work. It relies on the viewer’s cultural knowledge. It demystifies a product that might be considered exotic in 1964. And the final takeaway is a sense of humor and success. “Oh, I get it, the policeman must be Irish.” If you ad the fact that most ads in 1964 had a whole bunch of white people and nobody else, these are even more striking. So, why now do I see current ads that show me a car and read, “This is a car.”