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Celebrating Illustration, Design, Cartoon and Comic Art of the Mid-20th Century

Haddon Sundblom: "[His paintings] have what people like!"

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

In a June 1956 article on Haddon Sundblom in American Artist magazine, author Frederic Whitaker explains what makes Sundblom's work so universally appealing. Whitaker writes about "... the sunlight glow that pervades all his work - that lucency which aroused the expressed envy even of that other giant of illustration, Norman Rockwell."


"Technically," writes Whitaker, "his paintings are always sunny. They and their characters and settings breath an air of refinement."


"They are romantic, idealistic, melodious, wholesome, healthy, pleasing. They look good. His men are men, his women desirable, his children adorable. He gives the human race cause for self-respect."


"Never do his compositions ever suggest anything sordid or depressing, either in color or in subject matter. They have what people like!"


"One might suggest," Whitaker concludes, "that the advocates of the mud-and-misery school of painting could learn much from contemplating the results."

* Thanks to Heritage Auctions for allowing me to use their scan of a Haddon Sundblom original at the top of today's post.

* Thanks also to Aron Gagliardo of the American Academy of Art for the photos of Sunny Sundblom's clip files, which are part of the Academy's collection. More on Sundblom's connection to the American Academy of Art ... tomorrow!

* My Haddon Sundblom Flickr set.


  1. awesome awesome site! I love 1950/60's americana illustration, it's a great source of inspiration. you can check out my work over at my blog page if interested :) im always looking for new people to network with

  2. My response to Fredric Whitaker's comment and opinion of Haddon Sundblom's illustrations, is compressed into just one word.. AMEN!

    Tom Watson

  3. Amen! As well...
    In these times I have seen Santa Claus taken for a ride in all kinds of distorted designs.

    In Sundblom's I enjoy the complete lack of and freedom from cynicism.

  4. Personally I think it's a shame that Sundblom has become irrevocably linked with Coke because the quality of his work goes far beyond this easy categoriation.His work is always beautifully composed, his lighting and color are always well designed and appropriate and the fluency of his brushwork impeccable. I'd love to see more of his editorial work because any study of his work always ends up on bloody Cocoa Cola!
    He must have done a load more than that in his career.

  5. And what exactly WAS wrong with a bit of 'mud and misery'? Should everthing have been seen through this kitsch technicolor prism?
    BTW was Jon Whitcomb a Sundblom disciple, his work certainly has that look.

  6. Ping: A few posts back you did a run on 1950's illustration. Don't get me wrong. I love 50s stylized minimalism. But, c'mon, just look at this stuff! Sundblom epitomizes a style of American illustration (1930s and 1940s) that was just so jaw-dropingly gorgeous nothing ever really compares. Look at the light in this stuff!!

  7. wonderful, as usual!

  8. borky1:12 PM

    This guy's stuff smacks of that feeling you got as a kid when you were first allowed to drink a small amount of alcohol at Christmas and everything seemed to suddenly become flooded with this warm sparkling glow like pure living sunlight and your heart felt like it'd explode with this feeling of intense love you felt for everyone, even complete strangers you'd pass on the street, and you realised that under the seemingly perpetually dull dreariness and endless shadowy tetchinesses of what we normally take for reality was this other brighter possibility of a greater reality where everyone and everything wished nothing but the best for each other and there'd be nothing but happy endings for all of us.

  9. I love your blog, really, really love, I have more respect for this golden age stuff all the time.

    Giving the human race cause for self-respect is not something we're hot on these days, a big subject but funny how things as apparently superficial as style and advertising make it really obvious.

    is it kitsch or is it uncynical? Is this sunshiney thing the real thing or is the muddy moody thing the real thing? You could say it's all subjective but I'm not sure I believe that... I think believing the vision depends on how good the artist is...

  10. I love Borky's comment

  11. Okay, I'm certain to get groans from writing this, so first let me say that I adore Sundblom's work. However, it's important for me to also say that it's unfortunate he wasn't allowed to paint what ALL people would like, particularly people who weren't caucasian. This is not "the human race." The characters are NOT universal, but very specific. Yes, I understand why it was that way, but that article is just screaming it out to me, and I wouldn't have written this otherwise. Sorry for being a downer.

    1. Anonymous5:32 AM

      Very nice comment! Is this his jewish origin who make him do this choice? Is this a zionist worker? Don't being sorry! He must being a pro-Israel representant.

  12. DBClemons: A character can be "universal" or representative of "the human race" and still be of a specific race or country of origin. The definition of universal is having basic human characteristics that all human beings share or traits that touch something universal in all living men and women. Sundblom's characters are certainly universal. His catalog of work covers mostly white characters, but that does not mean that the emotions brought forth by his characters aren't universal simply because the characters are white.

    By your definition, none of Michelangelo statues would be universal simply because his subjects were all of a specific race; nether would any of the artwork by Van Gough, Matisse, Bellows, Wyeth, etc, etc.

  13. C'mon guys this is the 'real world' seen thru the eyes of advertising.To that extent it's ok but we also need to see the darker side of life, therein lies the thrilling drama of Maguire, Fawcett, Mcginnis et al.

  14. To me it's a question of proportions:
    Of course we need not suppress "the darker side of life" in any artistic creation. Through all the times there have been awful and admirable renderings of hell, for instance, and it's happenings.

    But speaking of our times: is there any scarcity of "mud and misery" in nowaday's multiple media? Isn't there rather a rareness of things fundamentally un-cynical?
    I'm not fancy-go-lucky ignoramusing on any kitschy ideal world.

    I enjoyed borky's irresistibly embracing and all-comprehending comment, as Chloe does, and having said this would like to wish you ALL a happy X-mas:-)

  15. Interesting that examples of skillfully painted illustrations conveying the spirit and traditional esthetics of Santa Claus and Christmas, would induce snarky, snide and derogatory remarks from those that are apparently too hip and too enlightened with new wave ideals, to find these illustrations anymore meaningful than just sentimental advertising gimmickry.

    Hey, there's plenty of garbage showing the way over-the-top dark side category, at many museums of modern art.. so knock yourself out, if that's what turns you on!

    Tom Watson

  16. I can't say it better than borky, but I can add that the ilustrations reflect an intense value for the sunniness and sensualness of existence, or at least for the charactars being depicted. This is a great line that says it all: "everything seemed to suddenly become flooded with this warm sparkling glow like pure living sunlight and your heart felt like it'd explode with this feeling of intense love ..."

  17. Remo;

    I have never heard of Jon Whitcomb working with or for Sundblom, but I can see the resemblance in the general idealization of the female face. Probably more a function of them both being influenced by other artists of the same time period. Whitcomb was born only seven years after Sundblom, in 1906.

  18. Remo; I agree - there's nothing wrong with a little mud and misery. "Everything in moderation," is my dad's philosophy and I've always found that to be true. I think in this case, Whitaker was speaking from a position of having seen a dramatic shift in what art directors of the mid-1950s were rather suddenly embracing: illustration by a younger set influenced by abstract expressionism.

    I don't believe Whitaker would have considered Fawcett, MacGuire or McGinnis in the 'mud-and-misery' category, but rather the Robert Weaver types who were beginning to get quite a lot of ad and ed assignments - and whose work began appearing in the AD Annuals around this time - while Sundblom's stopped appearing.

  19. borky; that's a vivid picture you paint with your words -- thank you! :^)

  20. Remo; Sundblom did do a lot of non-Coke work, especially in the first half of his career. Tom Watson has very kindly sent me a bunch of scans of those, which we'll look at next week. By the late '40s to early '50s, however, his work appears less and less often in the magazines - never as editorial art - and almost always as ad art for Coke. Its also the period when his Coke ads become most accomplished in terms of his technique. I think that's probably why we see those images most often.

  21. Chloe; Thanks for your comment - I'm really delighted to read that you love the blog. :^) Thanks to everyone for your comments as well!

  22. Mykal; I agree that Sundblom's stuff is a knock out, however I disagree that the '50s minimalistic stuff is somehow less worthy or accomplished. I think most artists find that over time they are searching for minimalism... the great comic book artist, Alex Toth, is a good example of an artist who accomplished that goal. Actually, in my opinion the secret to Sundblom's magical painting ability is that it is in fact incredibly minimalistic in its own way. Nothing is overworked or overrendered... he had the ability to mix exactly the right colour on the brush and place a daub in exactly the right spot with such confidence... its stunning!... and it works so beautifully.

    But some days I want to taste something sweet and some days I want something savory, you know? ;^)

  23. Rich; There is still a lot of optimistic, sunny work being done today, one just has to look for it because the stuff that grabs the attention in the media is almost always overwhelmingly negative and depressing. The media today really embraces negativism, fear and horror (it seems to sell better, I guess), and as a result we get a distorted view of what all is out there. To be honest, I see more sunlight than storm clouds in the stuff I look at each day. But I'm not looking at the mainstream stuff.

  24. Leif:
    I think there is a truth in great art that enables it to rise above simple good/bad categorisation.Sundblom's work captures a bright joyful mood but a lot of this kind of advertising art is cloying and fake.It was created by calculating marketing men to sell product and anyone who loses sight of that has been taken in as intended. Deliberately ugly art is just as fake,I personally find a lot of those 50s men's 'sweat' magazines featuring grotesque Nazis with whips etc really unpleasant.But a truthful statement, be it bathed in sunlight or wreathed in shadows remains a great thing.

  25. Remo, Your first sentence made sense to me, after that, you lost me. I think you are looking at the mid century illustrations through your personal prism of todays world. I look at mid century illustrations through my perspective of 50 or 60 years ago. The ad people new that even if some people's lives were not ideal like the illustrations, it suggested what it could be. The only cynics that I knew were those that sneered and scoffed at mainstream society, and formed their own groups of artists, writers and poets, known as the 'Beatniks' and later the 'Hippies'. They thought they were enlightened, and above the norm. For the most part, attitudes weren't jaded, and the public responded to idealistic bright happy ads.

    Those Nazis with whips were no different from sword wielding Knights or pillaging Vikings that were depicted in turn of the century adventure stories. The truth is Nazis were not nice people, and that is how they were depicted in most illustrations. I don't have a problem with depicting the truth either.

    Tom Watson

  26. Tom; I can imagine that not everything about the ad business was just cynical manipulation - that at least some of the motivation behind ad campaigns was to 'lift the spirits' of the public, but surely ad people didn't naively believe the products they were helping their clients sell would improve the purchasers' lives.

    And surely even "regular folks" must have looked at the impossibly perfect world presented in Sundblom's Coke ads with something of a jaundiced eye...?

    I've read quite a bit about the history of Mad magazine, which came out during the early '50s. The publisher, William Gaines, often included mock ad parodies for exactly that reason; Mad's 1950s readers loved the magazine because it exposed the hypocrisy of, for instance, cigarette and liquor advertising.

    My point being, surely it wasn't just the beatniks who were cynical about mainstream society? Mad's circulation was in the millions during the '50s. I can't imagine that many young people wearing mohair shirts and berets and playing bongo drums while listening to beat poetry! ;^)

  27. Tom,I studied 20th century history to a high level and I know for a fact that those depictions of Nazis are ridiculous caricatures and you show your foolishness to believe the evil of these men can be depicted in such a cartoonlike manner. You also show yourself to be someone happier with a comfortable fiction than a unwelcome fact.Those ad execs on Madison Avenue were selling you a dream I'd have thought you might have have realized that by now.

    But of course 'Madmen'is full of idealists isn't it?

  28. Remo and Leif, let me see if I've got this right from those that are obviously more qualified to correct my apparent distorted foolish observations and perceptions of mid century society and interpreting the illustrations of that period.... The 50s' Madison Ave ad men, most ad illustrations, corporate manipulators and perhaps even a deliberate U.S. government strategy working in tandem to cleverly plot and execute diabolical misleading implications and lies in advertising, magazine covers and other propaganda material, to clumsily and ridiculously hoodwink and brainwash the mindless public into thinking that the Nazi's were evil, Communism was evil, corporations were good and society was actually made up of decent hard working people, who were basically living happy, productive lives, bearing the fruits of a prosperous era after a great depression and four years of war and hardship. A gullible society that was conned into dreams of unrealistic pie-in-the-sky notions that their lives were not merely a hum-drum of mind numbing day to day struggles and a target for victimization.. sprinkled with those absurd visual depictions that life was actually full of sunlight, happiness, lovable beaming grandparents, bright shinny toothpaste ad smiles and cute charming angelic pink cheeked children clad in clean starched garments of precious little frills and bows.

    I'm glad you guys straightened me out on that. I guess myself, Fredrick Whitaker and those I came in contact with back then, were part of that mindless society that bought the big lie! Or, maybe they were reading Mad magazine and were finding out the truth, and I just wasn't aware. It's sure comforting to know that clearer heads from those that 'studied twentieth century history at a high level' can read the tea leaves so accurately and truthfully. Thanks for the enlightenment. ;-)

    Tom Watson

  29. I can't speak for Remo and the Nazi issue, Tom; I was just asking about advertising people.

    So if I read correctly through your very thickly applied sarcasm you're saying that because one was not present during a particular time period one cannot draw a conclusion based on studying the popular culture artifacts and historical documentation of that time period? That only the first-hand experience of someone who was there can provide an accurate, unbiased assessment of what society was like?

  30. Leif, you can draw your own conclusions based on whatever fits your point of view. My opinion is my point of view, based on my unbiased experience and knowledge in advertising and illustration at that time. I never became jaded or disillusioned by my experience in many aspects of advertising. Charlie Allen has expressed my views, Barbara Bradley has expressed my views and many of my friends and acquaintances in the business have expressed my views. Much has been written about different eras during that time, and decades or even centuries later. It is not always accurate, and it is not always false. But, if it is controversial and alarming, it draws particular interest, no matter how inaccurate it might be.

    When I was a teenager in the 50s', my friends and I read Mad Magazine, not because we thought it exposed hypocrisy or had some poignant social message, but because it was bizarre and often humorous. I thought the Jack Davis illos. were super, and that is what really interested me. Obviously you see it differently, but that was my experience, and nothing has really caused me to think any differently. And, changing someone's opinion is not my goal.

    I think looking at these excellent old illustrations for the great talent that they were and still are, is much more gratifying than trying to psychoanalyze and project ones social ideology into these early illustrations, 60 years later.

    Tom Watson

  31. Tom wrote:

    "Leif, you can draw your own conclusions based on whatever fits your point of view. My opinion is my point of view, based on my unbiased experience and knowledge in advertising and illustration at that time."

    Tom; I can't argue with the specifics of your personal anecdotal experience, but I have to quibble that ANY experience (yours, mine, Remo's - anyone's) can be unbiased. Statistical, quantifiable, industry measured, scientifically proven and provable... that can fall into the realm of unbiased - but your personal experiences are naturally influenced by a multitude of life circumstances and formulated opinions - and therefore, biased. And if biased and not backed up by hard data, then not necessarily very accurate or exemplary of the broader picture.

    In the case of you, Charlie and Barbara, i would suggest that you all enjoyed pretty fortunate circumstances - I don't now that its typical of the broader experience or not. I don't know if we could ever really quantify that statistically.

    But, hey, you're welcome to your opinion! And thanks for always sharing it - our discussions are always thought-provoking. :^)

  32. I'm not really sure what Tom's trying to say here.

    I know what I'm saying,that Sundblom and a few other illustrators succesfully captured a view of post-war American society that was sunlit optimistic and wholesome. I also know that some clever advertising men of that era overdid the rosy-cheeked bit and created an impossibly utopian view of U.S society that became mythic.

    I'm also saying that there were other illustrators who captured the "flip side to the American dream". Artists like James Avati,Robert Maginnis,and other interpreters of noir-ish themes that ran thru the 40s and 50s.Was that all fiction?
    I would have thought the film noir genre must have reflected some facet of American culture.This was also the era of McCarthy and racial segregation,I recall.And the beat scene also, reflecting a questioning of traditional values that ultimately shaped the 60s.

    Maybe some illustrators were so far removed from these realities they never even noticed them.But to seek an illustration culture where everything is Mom and Apple-Pie is a little too narrow for my liking.

  33. Leif, I am using the word 'unbiased' in more general terms. Of course, everything we react to is sprinkled with some form of bias and reflects our genetic character, our upbringing, our education, life's experiences and our environment, etc. When I was working in the field, I had no agenda or was not prejudice towards or against the concept of advertising, those that worked in advertising, corporations that advertised, advertising strategy or the consumers of advertising. My motives were to use my talents and experience as an asset to the ad agency(s) or my client. For the most part, my experience was positive. In fact, while working with large ad agencies with major accounts, such as U.S. Sprint, Chevron Gasoline, Levis, Intel, Princess Cruise Lines, Dole and Del Monte Foods to name a few, they made an effort to be truthful, ethical and avoid legal concerns in both copy and the visuals. Like any other business, there were jerks, con men, womanizers and alcoholics, but in my experience, both in S.F. and Chicago, it was the exception and not the rule. I have also occasionally experienced the same cast of characters in a local auto repair shop, factory workers, Insurance Company employees, Realtors, lawyers and even teachers, but I don't characterize the whole profession through the bad behavior of a small percentage. Therefore, I have no bias against ad agencies or advertising in general, nor do I think they were free of specific criticism.. but that applies to all other professions, institutions, etc.

    It was a challenging, enjoyable and rewarding profession for me as an AD, CD and an illustrator. Of course, I had an invested interest in my profession, but I never chose nor was forced to do anything that was unethical, illegal or against my principals. You might think that was just good luck, but I believe it was the norm in most professions back then. My bias is that my dad told me, "you will get out of it, what you put into it".. and I found that to be true.

    Tom Watson

  34. Ok, so should we revise our image of the American advertising industry from being 'clever and cute' to 'naive and innocent',and we'll assume the industry was populated with unassuming genial figures like Charles Coburn and Dick Van Dyke. Does that really have the (Colgate) ring of truth?

  35. Sorry Remo, I must have been sleep walking through the mid century world of advertising and illustration. Glad there are alert watchdogs like yourself who has boned up on the REAL story behind those idealistic, phony, oh so wholesome, unrealistic illustrations manufactured by those deceptive, manipulative, greedy Madison Avenue admen. Hey, thanks for straightening me out about that. My retired A.D. and illustrator friends will also appreciate your unbiased insightful EXTRAPOLATIONS.

    Tom Watson

  36. Fortunately Tom you don't have to rely on my erudition.Vance Packard's book The Hidden Persuaders seems to have been addressing the same or similar points:

    "His widely read book The Hidden Persuaders of 1957 was a strident attack on the American advertising industry, in which he drew attention to the ways behavioural psychologists, colour analysts, and others were able to persuade consumers to buy products they often neither wanted nor needed. This was followed by other texts including The Waste Makers: A Startling Revelation of Planned Obsolescence (1960), The Naked Society (1964), and The People Shapers (1977)."

    But somehow all this passed you by.Fancy that, working in an industry and being so credulous as to how the industry worked.And being an AD as well?

  37. As I alluded to before Remo, I guess reading 'tell all' books about the industry, and believing every word makes you the real expect here, and 'incredulous' me, simply toiling away with blinders on. Maybe those behavioural psychologists got to people like myself first. After all, in order to brainwash society, you have to control communications. As you suggested, it was during the Mccarthy investigation era and paranoia was prevalent. Keep in mind Remo, that books are written to sell, and the more controversial, shocking or revealing the information seems to be, the better it sells.. conveying the appearance that all information is creditable and factual. Brainwashing and mind control was a popular subject for writers, for movies and public conversation, back then.

    Maybe I was just too busy meeting with agency heads and copywriters, meeting with corporate execs, creating, art directing, illustrating and producing ads, while running a fully staffed art department, etc. Incidentally, I was Vice President C.D. and on the Board of Directors for one agency, and I know for a fact, that for the eight years I was there, we ran a clean agency and no behavioural psychologists. I have also done a lot reading on the giants in illustration from the past, including quotes, some that were quoted to me face to face, and nothing I heard or read, even from their own writings, indicated to me the case you seem to be bent on making.

    I can only speak for myself, some friends and acquaintances in the business.. and some were high up in national agencies. If it was happening, it wasn't a topic of conversation or a strategy that was being discussed with me, or anyone I was aware of. And, I'm not saying what you read or heard, were all lies. But, you believe what you want to believe, and I will believe what I experienced and that which is backed with real proof, not just conjecture.

    And, I think Sundblom painted those rosy cheeked kids and jolly Santa full of light, because that was his style, his trademark.. and it served him and the public well.

    Tom Watson

  38. Apparently after WW2 they couldn't find a single supporter of the Nazi Party in Germany.Nobody knew one, nobody was related to one, nobody knew about the mistreatment of the Jews.Amazing, complete amnesia.

    And I suppose even Darren Stevens' venal boss at the advertising agency in Bewitched was in no way based on any popular view of Admen?
    Sorry to cut and paste again but:

    " In 1957, a congressional committee found that nearly all of the dietary products were practically worthless, and that the American public had been paying over $100 million a year for phony latter-day patent medicines. Additionally, in the area of nutrition and health, advertising oversimplified--and therefore falsified--important information. For example, in order to sell more cooking oil and modified fat products, the advertising Merlins declared that "cholesterol" was the main factor in heart disease. This was not a unanimous scientific feeling, yet it was so widely disseminated throughout the culture that it became a "fact." Much the same thing occurred with toothpastes. Several additives ranged from ammoniates to chlorophyll to antienzymes to fluoride--all of which provided inconclusive dental help. Rather than teaching people better nutritional habits and brushing techniques, the advertisers claimed that some new kind of additive would provide proper dental care."

    Tom,you can maintain this 'head in the sand' attitude but the vast weight of objective evidence says you're wrong.I'm trying to resist using the word 'deluded' here but it's getting awful hard.

  39. Tom; I don't for a minute doubt the sincerity of your opinion on the business and your career in it. I do however find it a bit surprising that in all those years, all those meetings, all those campaigns, among all those associates, you never encountered a single situation where everyone gave each other a sideways glance, a wink and smirk, and said, "Yeah, rrright!"

    I have a vivid memory of being in a brief for a new kid-targeted product (I won't say what for fear of getting sued, even all these years later). I was to create cartoon mascot artwork for this entire line of, *ahem* "food". At one point the AE, explaining what was wanted of my illustrations, said, "And beside this spot where Leif will draw [the mascot] playing each different sport, we'll print this table explaining to parents how many joules of energy their child will get from each unit of [the 'food' product] while their child plays that sport.

    At which point I couldn't help but guffaw out loud at how they'd devised a clever way of spinning the fact that this 'food' product was made mostly of sugar. My outburst received death stares and stony silence from every other person in the room. I quickly realized I'd broken an unwritten rule: we do NOT admit that we are colluding to sell the public a bill of goods. Ever.

  40. I think someone was living in a parallel milk and cookies universe.Someone so naive they neither questioned what they were doing or listened to any criticism of their industry.
    That kind of closed thinking can lead to sinister consequences.

  41. Yes there were all kinds of rumours - and still are. Just happened to read a treatise on all the thought and psychology that's invested into the concept of a shopping mall. Optimizing it on all fronts. Lots of things to gently stimulate us into a buying mood; often quite unobtrusive, defying conscious notion. That was written in the year 2010 though. I have my doubts if it was like this in those times Tom writes about (when you still could ride an elevator in silence, without muzak;-))... IMO things and ADS of that kind were less sophisticated then, and to a certain degree, more innocent. Perhaps Leif's example already hints at today's world of advertising.

    The interesting discussion here reminded me of a particular rumour, spread some years ago:

    It was about movies. Not just about product placement. Which is fairly obvious.
    The theory ran as follows: In the reel of film you insert just one picture here and there. Invisible to the naked eye. But the subconscient would register it:
    That invisible image would bring the advertising message home.

    The audience would be happily inconscient, surface-consciousness-wise.... But with the subconscient enregistering the unseeable.

    The unsuspecting recipient, when the occasion arises, from unknown founts - later on feeling a sudden urge:

    "Yea!! Let me buy "THIS ONE"...

    Too far out to be true?

  42. Leif, sugar does give short time energy, especially in children, and so does a candy bar. To avoid exactly what you and Remo are maintaining was the norm, the agencies I worked with had attorneys that checked all claims, etc., to make sure they were accurate.. plus our client's attorneys worked closely with our copy writers and our attorneys to avoid false claims and law suits. At that time, you had to have legitimate proof to support any claim. If there was any doubt or further concern, we didn't take the chance. Most of my dealings with agencies, while freelancing, was after that process was determined, but I don't recall working on any project that was obviously or subtly shady or dishonest.. to my knowledge. In fact on a few occasions, I witnessed serious debates, discussions and even arguments on the accuracy or legitimacy of a claim or the appearance of a product or service. But, the agency owner or president would have the final say, and didn't want to take the risk, if it might be subject to a legal challenge.

    While in art school, one of the courses I had to take was a Psychology class that covered how colors, shapes,logo designs, headlines, body copy and number of other advertising elements, might be responded to by different age groups, genders and different social classes. This was part of marketing strategy to target the right groups in the right way, in order to produce a more effective ad or illustration. There was nothing devious, sneaky or unethical about the strategy. In fact, the course was fascinating and quite helpful, eliminating approaches that would not be as effective. I used what I learned in that course throughout my career.

    Tom Watson

  43. Leif, I don't doubt your experience, but I would venture to guess that the vast majority of your interaction with the advertising world was not devious, misleading or dishonest.

    Remo, you are welcome to your opinion of me or anyone that has a similar opinion as mine. I am comfortable in my own skin, and with the accuracy of my own experiences. I'm not trying to push an agenda here, but you lead me to believe that you are. I just thought you might would be interested in my in my point of view of that time. Reading books that trash an industry, etc., can be interesting and entertaining, but it may be just as deceptive and dishonest as you seem to be claiming the general advertising business was.

    Tom Watson

  44. Tom,I have no agenda against the advertising industry or you.I think I uesd the terms 'clever and cute' about the former and 'credulous' about you.

    I think its rather charming that someone can have such an innocent attitude about their business.

    What i find odd is that even now you dont seem to recognise the truth of that business. Advertising tunes in to peoples' fears and insecurities and provides them wih a product to allay those fears.Whether or not its a new car, designer fragrances, healthy foods,life insurance whatever, the strategy is always the same.To do this Admen need to know how to push the buttons to motivate people to buy. Staying just this side of the truth is part of that skill.
    The fact that you seem to have no grasp of this skill -nor even recognise it as existing- is truly strange.

    I'm also not sure why you needed to post your last message 6 times- unless its some kind of fancy old school advertising trick.

  45. This has become quite fascinating, Remo. First you said you didn't understand what I was saying, then you trivialized my experience in advertising and illustration by implying I probably wasn't being truthful, then it escalated to accusing me of being in denial, then delusional, and even compared me to the Germans at the end of WW 2, and now you are questioning my mental state!

    Pouring out all of this negative energy over my personal recollections, is quite bizarre. Have you become the self appointed TI thought police, Remo?

    Hey, you obviously don't agree with my recollections, or maybe you don't even believe me.. SO WHAT! GET OVER IT!

    Tom Watson

  46. Sorry Leif.. I kept getting an error message that my comment exceeded the maximum size to be posted. After I retried a number of times, not knowing they actually did go through, it finally accepted it in two parts.(?) First time that has happened here.


  47. The thing is Tom we're all here because we love mid century illustration, be it editorial or advertising. It just so happens that Lief and I have advanced views that the men in Madison Ave were very slick in their ability to manipulate people's buying decisions.You seem to disagree, despite the weight of objective evidence and clearly you aren't going to change your mind.
    But to sarcasticly dismiss other viewpoints and then whinge when others bite back seems ill-judged.

  48. Remo, apparently I gave you too much credit in this discussion. Try and focus.. the advertising methods I practiced and those I came into contact with, were standard procedures in promoting and displaying the assets and other positive features of the client's product or service. Like a portrait photo or painting, we displayed it in the most impressive way esthetically, The copy was written to inform, support and inspire the reader to purchase the product or service.. that's called "advertising". By viewing the ad, the public was informed and educated about the product or service, and I can easily support that with fact. I am and was aware that some agencies were caught making claims their client couldn't support, either visually or in writing. To my knowledge that didn't happen to any accounts I worked on. I worked with large, medium and small agencies and clients, and I never had meetings with behavioral psychologists or colour analysts.

    I have enough solid evidence that tells me advertising was like most other businesses, some used borderline or unethical practices, but most did not.

    That is my opinion based on my experience, those I worked with and other information at the time. Therefore I disagree with your characterization of both advertising agencies in general, and your assessment of my recollections. This is not a contest, Remo. I trust you see the wisdom in just agreeing to disagree.

    Tom Watson

  49. Just felt like adding an example. Showing a remarkable difference between mid century advertising and 2010. I find it striking enough:

    Nowadays we habe become accustomed, for instance, to airlines in ad liveries. Flying advertisement columns, so to say. Airlines must be charging quite a hefty price for it.

    Years ago this also was practised in private. Someone consenting to have his car painted over as a rolling ad would receive an appropriate compensation.

    And nowadays?
    Well, that's what I'd call successful marketing:
    People buying branded clothes, for instance. Crazy after them - displaying the brand name in public on any pant or shoe or shirt.
    Now, do they get a compensation for the advertising vehicle?

    No! They won't!
    It's the very crazy contrary:
    They even pay a price premium...he he he...

  50. P.S: brands:
    derived from the term "burn mark!"

    Brand marking cattle...

  51. The problem is Tom you dont give any credit.
    Your simplistic explanation of advertising technique is based on the idea that you are 'helping' the consumer to make a choice of brands -no bias, no persuasion:

    " The copy was written to inform, support and inspire the reader to purchase the product or service.. that's called "advertising"."

    As advertising is paid for by the owners of a specific brand that you represent it stands to reason your most important job is to PERSUADE the public to buy your clients brand, regardless of whether it is actually the best or most appropriate product.Call it what it is, it's a form of manipulation.

    That is what's called "advertising".

    And I think the fact that you deliberately avoided using words like persuasion and manipulation in favor of terms like 'inform' 'support' and 'inspire' shows you are using exacltly those techniques to make your argument now.

    " By viewing the ad, the public was informed and educated about the product or service"

    Or rather 'seduced' by the promise of a better life,greater sexual attractiveness or being 'one up' on the neighbors.
    That's the reality of advertising.Same then same now.Just accept it for that and stop pretending it was all about doing the public a 'service'.That is either disingenuous or incredibly naive.

  52. Remo, why have you become so emotionally invested in my choice of words to describe my experience in advertising?

    Tom Watson

  53. No emotional investment at all.I just think your choice of words is particularly revealing.
    As is your evasiveness.

  54. Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year, Remo.

    Tom Watson

  55. this blog is truly awes.

  56. Thank you and the greeting is reciprocated.





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