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The Creative Revolution of the 1960s

May 2, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Written by Phin Upham

Long Before Matthew Weiner ever conceived of the idea of Mad Men, there was a cultural revolution taking place in the offices of Madison Avenue. This stretch of New York City is known for the plethora of top advertising agencies concentrated there. It began at the close of the 1950s, when advertising began to veer away from facts and figures toward crafting narratives.

The firm credited with doing the most work in this genre of advertising was Doyle Dane Bernbach, which was co-founded by the late Bill Bernbach. He wanted to veer away from the idea that art should only support the copy, insisting that ads look as good as their slogans.

His approach combined the copywriter and artist into one creative team of equals. Bernbach believed that one creative ad, properly executed, could do the work of ten mediocre ones. He categorically rejected the idea that advertising was a science, once challenging his colleague David olgivy with a famous quote: “I warn you against believing that advertising is a science.”

There were also racial issues to contend with. At the time, Jewish firms like Bernbach’s only worked with Jewish clients. Usually, that meant clientele from the garment district or a retailer.

Ironically, this level of storytelling doesn’t exist much today at Bernbach’s old firm. It hit hard times after Bernbach’s passing in 1982, and it was never able to fully recuperate. When it was bought out by Needham Harper, its approach was more back to basics.


Phin Upham

Phin Upham is an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Twitter page.

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