Put That In Your Pipe and Smoke It

John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign in the summer of 1960 used Jackie Kennedy Onassis, his wife, as a key figure. Beautiful and well-spoken, she was known to the nation already as a fashion icon. In an effort to reach out to the Spanish-speaking voters, she filmed a commercial for Kennedy entirely in Spanish, as shown above. In it she says:

“Dear Friends, the wife of senator John Kennedy, candidate for the US Presidency, is talking to you. In these very dangerous times, when the World peace is threatened by Communism, it is necessary to have in the White House a leader able to guide our destinies with a firm hand. My husband has always cared for the interests of all the portion of our society who need the protection of the monetary government. For the future of our children and to reach a world where true peace shall exist Vote for the Democratic party on the 8th of November. Long live Kennedy!”

Since Sterling Cooper is running the advertising campaign for Nixon during this election, Harry Crane is charged with keeping tabs on the television ads for the opposing candidate. As soon as this reaches the Sterling Cooper boardroom, in Episode 9 of Season 1 (“Shoot”), they begin discussing damage control. Ken complains “I don’t understand it,” and Paul Kinsey’s retort is, aptly, “Because it’s in Spanish.” This quick boys’ club exchange passes quickly because morale is rather low, especially when Don points out that Nixon’s eight-point lead in the polls “isn’t much.”

Mad Men shows the election from the perspective of the Sterling Cooper advertising agency so as to make viewers think about just how influential television was in the election, for the first time ever. Today, we expect to see campaign advertisements on almost every commercial break in the last few weeks leading up to a presidential election. In 1960, advertising agencies were paving the way for the first ever televised presidential election, with the debate as the main event. Some will even argue that, had the debate not been televised, Nixon would not have come across so poorly in it. Had television not been a factor in the election at all, Nixon might have served his presidential term long before the Watergate scandal. Imagine that next time you see a political ad on television.

Links consulted: "Jackie Kennedy Speaks Spanish"


The Time Without Cell Phones

In Episode 3, “Marriage of Figaro," of Mad Men Season 1, Don drove to pick up his daughter Sally’s birthday cake but did not come back until very late at night. When Don did not show up after one hour after leaving, Betty and the wives fiercely worried and called the bakery. However, they were informed that Don had picked up the cake a long time ago. Since Don was unreachable, the birthday party was almost wasted by the unpredicted absence of the cake.

Imagine what would happen today if Don did not come back on time with the cake. It would not even necessary for Betty to call the bakery. Instead, she would call Don’s cell phone with a single hit on the speed dial key on her cell phone. Even if Don did not pick up the phone, she could leave thousands of voice messages or simply find out Don’s location with some easy-to-use GPS services, for example, the AT&T FamilyMap.

How annoying all these things were going to be if they were available in Mad Men! Don was a man who had frustration in his marriage and needed some private space to think through some issues. Everyone can have personal issues or emergencies, and they usually happen in a bad time. In the case of Don, it was his daughter’s birthday, and the time he was supposed to bring back the cake. For some people, his decision of going to the railroad side to think and drink was irresponsible. Of course, whoever in the position of Betty would not accept Don’s action. However, in the perspective of somebody who needs the private time, the absence of cell phone was the best protection of the privacy and efficient meditation. A thorough meditation might be able to inspire the person to take new approaches to address his or her frustration. In Don’s case, even though there was not really anything indicating the result of his meditation, his uninterrupted private space also allowed him to somehow make up his “wrong doing”-he bought a golden retriever as the birthday gift to Sally. In the show, Don’s returning with the dog did not lead to a verbal conflict between him and Betty. However, if he were called back by cell phone, he would neither be able to finish his meditation, nor avoid a quarrel with Betty, which could be a disaster.

What Don did on her daughter’s birthday party would not be considered right by many people, but his uninterrupted private space might be something that people are jealous of. In the time of cell phone, we do miss the time without it sometimes.


The Art of Advertising

Throughout the 1950s suburbia was idealized by many Americans. The rising suburban communities were represented in the media as fulfilling the “American Dream.” It represented everything a young couple of postwar America wanted. In the 1950’s the baby boom was beginning to erupt. Suburban towns were manufactured by mass producing homes at a low cost, allowing families in the postwar economic boom to purchase homes. This was the ideal situation for new families, having the safety of a quite neighborhood and out of the city, while still remaining close enough to reap the benefits of having a husband who worked in the city. Children were able to be safe in a neighborhood and able to play with the other young children, while the parents were able to socialize in the open environment that neighborhoods provided.  

The situation of Don Draper is the ideal fit for this mold of suburbia. Draper has two young children, a wife, and a successful job in the city. He is the type of person that advertisements would use for these communities - an upperclass, young, white family with several children. Although the suburban neighborhood was essentially created for Draper, he never seemed to fit in. 

As seen throughout the series, Don often avoids home. He spends many evenings in the city with clients or other women, ignoring the life he is leaving behind in the suburbs. When Don is home, he never seems to be comfortable and is looking for an escape. Perhaps the city provides the hustle and bustle that allows Don to forget the past and his identity. Is it the close community feeling of a neighborhood frightening to Don where he is able to slow down and actually think?  

Has Don fallen for his own advertising trick and moved his family to the suburbs seeking an idealized life - “Advertising is based on one thing, happiness”?

Links referenced: Kenney, Kim. "Suburbanization in the 1950s: Glamorizing Suburbia in Popular Culture."

Episode Quoted: “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” Mad Men. By Matthew Weiner. Dir. Alan Taylor. AMC. 19 Jul. 2007. Television