Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on 9-11. Volunteer today



Real Ads From Real 'Mad Men'

As the 1950s gave way to the 1960s, the creative spirits of Madison Avenue found their voice

1951: Hathaway Shirts

The popularity of AMC’s Mad Men has inspired books like Mid-Century Ads that recall a consumer culture and its Eisenhower-era values. The man in the Hathaway shirt, for instance; in real life the model had a fondness for drink — not ideal after a few hours on the set.

Courtesy of Taschen

1953: American Airlines

A testimonial describing the lengths to which employees would go to keep fliers happy on American Airlines paints a perfect picture of the utter woodenness of early 1950s advertising. 

Courtesy of Taschen

1954: Lucky Strike

Lucky Strike’s tag line — "It’s Toasted" — was known as a "preemptive claim," says Mad Women author Jane Maas: "You say something your competition could just as easily claim, only you say it first, you keep on saying it, and you end up owning it."

Courtesy of Taschen

1954: Lawn-Boy

This Lawn-Boy ad took a "hard-sell" approach, browbeating buyers that “it is folly to buy any other brand.” It also typified "product-as-hero" ads, which placed the item being hawked on a pedestal — or desk, in this case. 

Courtesy of Taschen

1958: Pontiac

This pitch for Pontiac’s Star Chief Catalina Sedan may seem laughably static now but was bold for its time. The modernist building in the "background" practically clobbers you over the head. 

Courtesy of Taschen

1961: Maidenform Bra

Was there another bra to wear besides a Maidenform? Not in the Marilyn Monroe era. But on TV, models had to wear a black leotard under the bras they showed off. 

Courtesy of Taschen

1962: Wolfschmidt Vodka

Sam Bronfman, Seagram’s head honcho, was shocked by the sexy Wolfschmidt Vodka ads.  But his vodka became the party vodka in America, so he was shocked all the way to the bank. 

Courtesy of Taschen

1969: Volkswagen

Volkswagen blew the doors off stodgy 1950s ad campaigns when its ads started poking fun at its own products (“Lemon”; “Think Small”). 

Courtesy of Taschen

  • Pinterest
  • Google+

Slideshow photos are courtesy of Mid-Century Ads by Jim Heimann and Steven Heller (Taschen, 2012).

Sign up for the AARP Leisure Newsletter

The AMC television series Mad Men, about the ad business in the 1960s, received 17 Emmy nominations for its fifth season, and is poised to make Emmy history if it wins a fifth trophy as best drama series.