‘New Yorker’ Digs Up Its Own Ads From ‘Mad Men’ Era

Tension of the cultural shift is palpable

The mid-'60s was an anxious and uncertain period. Like Don Draper's tumbling silhouette, those years were suspended between Eisenhower's monochrome Americana and the kaleidoscopic revolution of the Woodstock generation. At its best, Mad Men, which returns Sunday to AMC after a long hiatus, distills the schizophrenic post-Kennedy angst in human terms. The characters wrestle with their dreams, desires, faults and frailties while navigating increasingly uncharted societal territory. These vintage New Yorker ads from the period, which the magazine is presenting online to salute the show's return, vividly detail that time of change. The reassuring family tropes of Lees carpeting and Kodak's Carousel projector (which Draper so memorably pitched in the Season 1 finale) now share space with the mod paisley pajamas of Fortrel (surely Hef had a pair in '66) and the pop-art bravado of Brazil iced coffee, its stiltedly sexist copy almost a put-on even when the work was new. Key word: almost—because, as the ads make clear, this was still a man's world. Even so, women were beginning to assert their independence (sorry, Royal, they wouldn't stay in the typing pool for long), and the notion of defying conformity and being true to oneself—a key Mad Men theme—turns up in ads aimed at both women (DuPont) and men (Lebow). Then as now, advertisers and agencies took pains to craft happy consumer fictions, but their work inevitably reflected the stresses and upheavals of the era. These ads promised calm havens, but the underlying tension tightened as the decade wore on. In such times, there's no safe place for Don Draper to land. See the ads after the jump.

@DaveGian davegia@hotmail.com David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.