A lone figure sits at a table in a dimly lit room. Cigarette in hand, he begins to write. “Why I’m quitting tobacco”. This is a pivotal scene from last week’s Mad Men in which maverick adman, Don Draper makes an audacious attempt to save his crumbling agency by writing a manifesto advertisement on the perils of tobacco and why his agency will no longer work for tobacco companies.
The ad duly runs in the next day’s edition of The New York Times. Everyone at Stirling Cooper Draper Price is shocked and horrified in equal measures. Don’s partners huddle together and berate him for his foolhardy actions. He squares up to them, cigarette in mouth and says, “...someone had to do something.” Thus carving out a heroic figure for himself in their hour of need. Will it work? We’ll see what happens in the next and final episode of this series.
Anyway I was fascinated by the authenticity of the ad in both appearance and content. Here is the layout…
Note the typography. The simple directness of Frankin and News Gothic is perfectly pitched for the period and the type of work that Draper wants to produce. This is what I love about Mad Men, the dogged attention to detail.
Agency manifesto ads became an effective way for agencies to set out their stall to potential clients, especially when the economic climate was dipping or when launching a new agency.
Here is a beautifully written manifesto ad from New York based Doyle Dane and Bernbach...
This direct conversational style was the benchmark of DDB copywriting which penned the legendary ‘Think small’ VW ad. The DDB style was embraced and emulated wholeheartedly by many British agencies, spearheaded by Collett Dickenson Pearce in the late 60’s. The doyen of this concise, crafted style of prose in the UK was David Abbott - who actually worked at DDB in his early days. If you haven’t read my account of him you can find it here.