Art of Advertising – Generation Change, Mad Men to Smart Men

‘Smart men’ are today busy bringing the art of advertising back into the limelight with all new visionary concepts. Many of this new generation are sons, daughters or grandchildren of the original ‘Mad’ men and 40’s ‘Silent’ generation or Boomer’ achievers.

It will certainly prove to be an interesting decade ahead if the coming generation of innovative thinkers listen to what those who have remained ‘silent’ for so long have to say and take it on board. One thing is for sure now that this unique group are beginning to take on retirement they won’t remain tight-lipped for long, because finally it is their turn to shout!

Knowledge of the self is the mother of all knowledge. So it is incumbent on me to know my self, to know it completely, to know its minutiae, its characteristics, its subtleties, and its very atoms*

Madison Avenue, Manhattan, New York New York is where an elite group of ‘Mad Men‘ (and some women) in the all-new exciting industry of advertising grew up in the 50’s following the Americans helping England and Europe to win World War II. The guys gained a general reputation for being martini-sodden, Manhattan cocktail swilling womanizing capitalist princes, while their gorgeous princesses were about boosting them up from the background.

They made Madison Avenue in New York one of the most powerful, innovative and creative places in the world for decades with their clever tactics and visionary concepts.

Today the fictional television mad man himself, Don Draper aka actor Jon Hamm, has put the M back in Madison, the capital A back into the art of advertising. the D into Draper and the E back into Esquire, highlighting the arrival of the all new self-made ‘smart men’, the advertisers of the contemporary age.

Since ‘Don Draper’s” day to provide the right focus for any ad campaign and to assist their clients to make sales, advertisers identified the demographic, socioeconomic and psychographic characteristics of the people they were hoping to reach, their so-called target market. If they did this well clients ended up having the right fit and a direct hit, maximizing profits for all. Classifications assigned were identified by a time line, which was then refined through additional criteria.

This might include how and where people where raised, what schools they went to, how much money they earned, what sort of houses they purchased, the suburbs where they chose to live, the status of the cars they drove and style of furnishings they purchased and the sort of shops they liked, such as boutiques in a village atmosphere, or the latest and greatest gaze, in the maze at the mall.

Knowing the characteristics of each group meant that advertising and marketing firms were able to guide real results. They gained value for money by engaging with the people most likely to purchase their client’s products.

It all made solid good business sense and over the decades advertisers achieved varying results, based on how their creative people planned smart or quirky campaigns that appealed to both their clients and consumers.

Up until recently the greatest percentage of advertising was conducted only through print media. This changed gradually in the 90’s and in the last decade with the growth of the Internet it has become far more dramatic.

Advertisers now are studying, in greater detail, people’s daily habits; if they belong to on-line groups like Facebook or twitter, tracking their likes and dislikes; whether changes in society or cultural development have affected their attitudes and outlook.

Their view of the future is important.

This is because the numbers aimed at a campaign in 2014, even for a small target market, are a great deal larger now than say 20 years ago; instead of being in the thousands the market is now in the millions; a larger market is one thought of as ranging from millions to billions.

Industry, commerce and the economy has entered a period being called the ‘Great Reset’, a time when we all have an opportunity to rethink how we can shape our cities and their economies into the future.

Desire, emotion and knowledge are taken into account as advertising ‘mad men’ become smart men, expanding their vision and research in the on-line world, which has to become far more refined, and a great deal more sophisticated if success for world economies is to be generated. It is important now to also take a client’s emotional well-being into account, as feelings come to the forefront.

Comedian Presenter Wil Anderson with advertising 'smart men' Russell Howcroft and Todd Sampson on the ABC's Gruen Nation series of shows about the ironies of their profession

You will find some of the ‘smart men’ in advertising in Australia today on the ABC’s Gruen Nation television series, renewed for another season. They continually entertain with their witty and intelligent repartee guided by comedian Wil Anderson.

Sixties Hippy Swingers

Named for the guy who invented the first shopping mall, the place where we all reputedly glaze over and become impulse buyers, the show’s programs balance talking seriously about advertising, while not taking its subject matter too seriously, which makes for a great deal of fun to be had by all.

Since the 70’s the main focus for people profiling in advertising, at least in the public arena, has seemed to have been on the ‘Baby Boomer Generation (1946 – 64), followed by Generation X (early 60’s to early 80’s) and by the Y (late 70’s to 90’s) generation.

All of these groups have been the subject of much hilarity and merriment on Channel Ten’s Talkin’ ’bout Your Generation so people have got to know their characteristics, flaws, frailties and feelings fairly well.

However there is an almost forgotten ‘Silent Generation’ (1925 – 1945), or Traditionalists, who are also coming into contention at the moment, as part of the biggest ageing population in the world.

Their conformist profile, at least compared to everyone else’s, has ensured they have never had very much to say

The time line previously predicted for generational change was usually packaged up in 20 year cycles. However this is rapidly changing down to just a decade.

Young women in the 40's, the elder group of the Silent Generation

This is because Baby Boomers, who were young in the 50’s, have now been found to have a very different outlook and ideas, as well as a whole other range of different interests from those who were young adults during the 60’s.

The 60’s group, for a great deal of time, were considered rebels and radicals, who conquered Wall Street and spent lashings of money lavishly without much thought for anything or anyone else. This is a view, that thankfully, has been realized as being far too limited.

The Silent Generation period encompasses just before, during and just after World War II.

The elder ‘Silent Generation’ group growing up in the forties, were basically teenagers while World War II was still raging. In the main they remained at home, although there are a proportion of young men who faked their birth dates and went to war anyway. If they stayed at home they took on jobs if they could, to help their families survive.

Whichever way you look at it, they took onto very young shoulders responsibilities that most young people today of twenty, thirty or forty have never known.

A large number of the ‘Silent’ group born in the 40’s cross over into 50’s Baby Boomer time line territory. So I am calling them the 40’s Silent/Boomers – those who in the main seem to have been excluded by many demographers, who have said they did not have much to say because they did not have wartime experiences.

This very cut and dried approach is limiting, especially here in Australia.

The formative years before, during or briefly at the end of World War II for the 40’s Silent/Boomers were all about self-sacrifice, not a concept that many people today would want to embrace in any way shape or form.

Born towards the end of World War II and in a few years after, these 40’s Silent/Boomers were very young as the euphoria around winning the war to end all wars gradually died down and the huge task of rebuilding cities and society was faced.

Fear became something they remembered in different ways; one was delivered from the pulpit at church on Sunday and another was being hungry. Food rationing was part of at least their first decade following this devastating global conflict. Australians on the whole were not nearly as hard hit as their English counterparts.

The disruption of shipping saw the movement of foodstuffs around the world restricted when Japan entered the conflict in 1942.

To manage the shortages, and in their attempts to control civilian consumption, those in power introduced the rationing system.

Rationing meant a fair share for all, an orderly queue and learning to be stand in line patiently as well as how to be polite.

Following the war many parents, or close family members and returning soldiers were out of work and so children learned tough love early on. Their older siblings shared their experiences of the effects of war on their teenage experience, which also impacted on their attitudes and outlooks.

The 40’s Silent/Boomers learned to hone their listening skills on the radio, where they could find out first-hand what was happening in the wider world and how everyone else was fairing too. Watches, telephones and cars were a luxury, like television, which for many was not commonplace before the 60’s.

Those born in the 40’s were also greatly affected by the horrific WWII stories regaled by parents, aunts and uncles, in books or by going to the movies on a Saturday afternoon, where during the 50’s either the terrible, or the inspiring tales about those who did go off to World War II were told.

The translation and publication of The Diary of Anne Frank  (1952 Doubleday) a young Jewish girl who had perished during the war in Europe, had an enormous impact on many young people. It was a heart wrenching journey for Anne and her family, whose story couldn’t fail to affect those that followed their journey from hiding out from the Germans in a secret place in a house at Amsterdam to the destructive ovens of a German concentration camp.

The 40’s Silent/Boomers were called upon to help thousands of immigrants leaving Europe.

Following the war they wanted the hope and promise of a better life and chance to assimilate in a country like Australia, where hopefully pride and prejudice would be left behind.

The tyranny of distance and the methods available had prevented ordinary people in Australia from travelling for so long, so this was a whole new experience, finally meeting people from different cultures that they had previously only read about or learned of when they were at school.

At home it was a monumental change as they struggled with the concept of multi-culturalism and how to ‘know thyself’ by embracing the fact that they were indeed a ‘wierd mob'; the subject of a wonderful book by the highly emotional Italian immigrant Nino Cullotta .

He detailed his experiences of arriving in his new country so well that he greatly affected how Australians saw themselves and helped to assist social and cultural change.

He wrote a great deal about ‘feelings’, something that, in the main, Australians en masse had been taught to control or hide since the Victorian age.

In the process, as they all took one step forward and two back together, they would learn a great deal about what it means to be truly human and how to go forward and live a meaningful life.

The 40’s Silent/Boomer boys drafted for the Vietnam War (1962-1975)  went overseas thinking, as their soldier counterparts before them had, that they were doing the right thing. Many did not come back.

Those that did often had lifelong injuries, both mentally and physically, which would have a huge impact on their futures and their children’s lives. Some of their experiences were so horrific they were haunted with nightmares for years and could not talk about why, even to those they loved.

For the Vietnam veteran there was no victory, no glory or welcome home and while that was thankfully corrected later, those very lean years had already taken his or her toll.

Those who went to Vietnam were loyal and patriotic, able to adapt and be lean, if that was required. Their anguish has been incalculable. It comes down to the fact that most people only want to be involved with a success story, which they were given at the end of World War II, whereas Vietnam was a no win situation for everyone involved.

40’s Silent/Boomers married young because that had been the social norm for decades and it was generally expected of them.

It also made sense to have children when you were young and grow with them so you wouldn’t be too old when they were at school. Also, they were told, it was far better for a woman’s body, which Dr’s today still maintain it is. It’s a biological fact.

Many young women knew about children, especially if they were among the youngest group of children in large extended families, where 20 years separated eldest and youngest.

They had helped out by babysitting all through their teens so they knew a great deal about caring for babies, when it was their time to have them. Unlike many young people today.

Extended families were the norm and it also meant huge family ocassions, with 30 – 40 people gathered together for Christmas and Easter celebrations.

They were a pretty compassionate lot, adopting and fostering children. Orphanages were full after the war as entire adult families had died.

Admitted with Polio and strapped into an iron hospital cot, 1945

Society en masse still frowned on babies born out of wedlock, and so those who couldn’t have their own took on other people’s responsibilities, giving themselves and the children a chance for a better life.

Many chose to remain ‘silent’ because they were just too busy learning, getting on with it or quietly achieving. They did not like fuss because it was embarrassing, not productive and beyond the realms of their childhood experiences. They may have ended up travelling extensively during their lifetime, but on the whole they looked to the security and wellbeing of their family and actively sought an expansion of knowledge about their world and its wider society.

Health issues are not necessarily age specific, but have implications for each generation, especially the 40’s Silent/Boomers. They were coping as teenagers, or young parents, with serious outbreaks of dreaded diseases. Polio, Scarlet Fever, Diphtheria and Whooping Cough all raged following the war.

Bombed out cities in England and Europe were filled with filth and disease and sewers lay exposed and rats ran rampant, in some places for years. Germs travelled with those emigrating to find a new life and it took a great deal of time to get them all under control and for ‘silent’ scientists to invent the vaccines that would stop the rampage.

Rebuilding shattered lives after such a global event as WWII took a long time. All through the 50’s and 60’s boarding houses all over the western world were filled with men and women trying to move on, without the sort of support or help given to later generations. It is because of their suffering, persistence and endurance that later generations benefited.

Col Joye and Judy Stone, Australian 50's celebrities on a grand scale

There were for many years a great many people on crutches, in wheelchairs and many who had suffered blindness, as a result of the war or polio. They fought long and hard to be recognized as a worthwhile part of a modern society. Children born from the early 40’s were raised in a paternal environment, where woman had to leave work when they married. They pledged to ‘obey’ their husbands, to do as they were told and when they didn’t suffered consequences, some extreme. So did their children. Getting out of line was not an option, the leather strap and cane was always at hand.

As children they had kissed their copious aunts and uncles goodbye in their coffins before they were laid to rest, learning that death was an integral part of life. They defied all odds, learned how to rise to any occasion and how to put their emotions on hold if it was necessary, and most certainly at work.

Talking about, or contacting your family during work hours was strictly taboo and quite difficult as phone calls were expensive. Hard to believe, the majority of people still didn’t have a phone until well into the 60’s, at least in Australia.

They caught public transport and walked to the shops to buy their food from the local grocer. Malls were something you saw on television in America for a long time, before they became a reality here. On Saturday’s if you were lucky you could put on your hoop petticoat and be part of the audience of ‘Australian Bandstand’ on television jiving the afternoon away to the sounds of Col Joye and Judy Stone.

40’s Silent/Boomers shook off the bonds of class and custom and reached out to shake hands across the world. In America they packed into the universities and colleges and looked to self-improvement on every level.

Going to university however wasn’t the norm for many Australian women at the time. They still walked about with books on their heads and learned that for posh people a loo was a toilet. They took on business classes to become secretaries, taking shorthand and typewriter lessons were the norm. The days of becoming a ‘personal assistant’ only began happening from the mid 60’s on.

Unlike their American and English counterparts, especially if money was scarce, men were educated first because they were seen as more ‘worthy’ and fees were too high here in Australia at that time and not subsidized by government. The university system was not only elite, but also elitist.

Most women in their early 20’s were producing children with a husband who would not hear of them working at all, because it would affect his status in the business world and his self-esteem. Men were supposed to be able to look after their wives and families well.

This Victorian attitude was imprinted in the psyche of older bosses in the companies they now worked for, including advertising. The bosses tended to promote men with promise, but only those who took on their responsibilities first. That translated into a reality of presenting a well dressed wife and clean rosy cheeked children for the boss to see often, and approve of. To be a success and gain support you had to look a success. The pressure to perform was enormous on both the men and their wives. Many took on charity committee to help fill their waking hours while the kids were away at school and so that they could ‘feel’ useful.

As people began picking up the pieces of their shell-shocked shattered lives asking them to become optimistic again and to help re-invent the future was a big ask. In Australia it took time to break down former English ‘class’ barriers and attitudes, that at least existed still in many people’s minds.

At home some preferred non-stressful, reverent interiors, one in which you could read a newspaper or a book and it would look brilliantly integral to your grand design. By looking like old “English” money it finally helped undermine the British class system that existed before the war in Australia and it gradually brought about a levelling of society.

40’s Silent/Boomers encouraged everyone to ‘rise above their station’. No more working class, no more leisure class, everyone would now work and be entitled to enjoy their leisure. This was a hard concept for many to wrap their heads around and would need time to take hold. They had been under the thumb a long time.

In fact it took two decades of flower power in the 60’s and 70’s with the 60’s Baby Boomers leading the sexual revolution. There was a decade of national irreverence, lots of flowing hair and free loving to bring about a continuing evolution of art, design, music, style and society.

Crowd of over 200,000 gathered on Washington Monument mall for March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, while Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his "I have a dream" speech.

They let their hair down  filled it with flowers and covered themselves in caftans seeking a Bohemian life nearby the beach. They lifted the tin off boarded up tenements and painted them colourfully and bought a beetle (Volswagen) or van and covered it in flowers too. They welcomed in a whole new age of people with a very different attitude to life.

They didn’t wait for it to come to them they set out to find it.

In America they drove Highway 1 and Route 66, which was nicknamed the Mother Road. While playing with a Rubric’s cube Baby Boomers were busy listening to the musical rhythms of life, although by the end of the 70’s they found out they needed to get real and get a life.

Since the early eighties 40’s Silent/Boomers have been much misunderstood, maligned and underestimated. How they reacted to their lean years, and later their 80’s luxury experiences, helped to define the contemporary world and the sub-groups they are now being divided into. But do they tell the whole story?

Because they have been ‘silent’ for so long there has not been much data around about these very strange people who brought civil rights into modern focus, generated enormous wealth in the arts, manufactures and commerce, championed charitable causes for the greater good, not their own, as well as advanced both science and technology way beyond what was previously imagined.

How they met and mixed with people cross culturally and savoured and shared the richness of those experiences in many walks of life had a huge impact on society and its cultural development. It brought about many of the changes to law and systems of government and helped to improve how it works.

40’s Silent/Boomers became extremely good skilled negotiators, wonderful collaborators and all about getting things done. This has rung true in both their personal and professional lives. At the moment it has been noted in the press that many of these silent people are slow to change their work habits, or to retire or step down. But is it any wonder?

They sure were 'happy days'...

Most of them have most likely been working since they were kids of 12, you could in those days during school holidays or even younger as a paperboy; they did this to help their families survive on one salary. It was also seen as ‘character building’.

If they were successful in life they did not keep the money for themselves, but rather shared it around, providing masses of employment opportunities for thousands of others and building companies to last beyond themselves.

Taking time out for leisure or for having a good time was something they did not do frivolously,  If there was a celebration everyone in their circle of family or friends was included and they were ‘Happy Days’. They did not party just for partying’s sake, a celebration was meant to mean something.

40’s Silent/Boomers have proved to be self-reliant influential innovators, some of whom were used to committing, being consistent and conforming, while at the other end of the scale was an exceptional group who went to extremes by being creative, clever and controversial. How else would they have been able to help land a man on the moon, put satellites into orbit, bring the computer into modern times and invent innovative technology to make ‘beam me up Scottie’ seem like it would become a reality.

The Beatles on Abbey Road - Paul born 1942, John 1940 - 80, Ringo born 1940, George born 1943 - 2001

They were taught a respect for authority, how to be team players and to fit into a chain of command when required of them.

They often started at the bottom, only moving up the ladder of success through hard work, guts, instinct, enormous risk taking and putting in the hard yards over very long hours.

Doing it the hard way taught them about adapting and changing to suit new circumstances. They were always about staying in, and playing the game for the long haul and so their vision was long and lasting. Once they got to the top because of their experiences on the way, they became far more guarded, trusted fewer people and drew on their very real experiences to put in place measures of protection for their families and those who worked with, and for them.

All the while they were busy inspiring others and, in some cases, creating wealth on a scale far greater than ever before. They gave back their time and money continually to society, aiding the arts and social and cultural development, knowing that an expansion of knowledge and experiences was the key to everything.

The arts were a particular focus, and great collections were formed and put on public display to help later generations with the learning process. They fought long and hard to improve educational norms and to raise health standards. They championed medical research setting up social profit foundations so that in the future many more people all over the world would benefit in both the east and west.

Growing up in the late 40’s and 50’s here in Australia 40’s Silent/Boomers took up swimming, football, jogging, cycling and yoga, meditating on mountains or climbing hilltops, where they came to conclusions that benefited the rest of mankind. They were involved in bringing about a revolution in music and amazing entertainment at the movies, which has been truly inspiring and liberating for many.

Johnny O'Keefe singing Shout with the Delltones, members of the 'Silent' generation they were all early pioneers of rock and roll in Australia. O'Keefe remains Australia's most successful chart performer, with twenty-nine Top 40 hits to his credit in Australia between 1959 and 1974.

40’s Silent/Boomers gave themselves time out to engage and exercise their minds, to learn how and when to listen and how to use their imagination.

They discovered what real democracy was all about so they could help to bring it up to date for the modern world. They helped save our heritage, the whales and invented the term ‘green’, opening the eyes of the world to what the consequences of destroying our natural habitat would mean.

This conversation is but only the tip of a huge iceberg, at least in terms of the experiences 40’s Silent/Boomers have to share, as they come nearer to the end of their working professional lives.

What happens during the next decade will be interesting as they are certainly not used to sitting around being unproductive. I imagine that many of them will re-invent themselves and if their health allows, become more involved in giving back to society.

Also their ageing status will be a major target market for many Mad Smart Men who embrace the Art of Advertising.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2012-2014

*Kahlil Gibran, Prophet, Poet and Writer


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