Review Blog

Nov 23 2010

From those wonderful folks who gave you Pearl Harbor. Frontline dispatches from the advertising war by Jerry Della Femina

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ed. Charles Sopkin. Text Publishing, 2010.
(Age: Year 12+) This book, originally published in 1971 as a look at the advertising world in New York, has been re-released following the success of the television series Mad men, based in part on it. Non-fiction, the book reveals the changes in the industry in New York, from so conservative that, as the author was told, 'people of his kind' would not be employed on ethnic grounds, to an industry where the copywriters were frequently high on drugs, did not start work until late in the day and the sexual revolution of the sixties was clearly happening.
The themes covered include the precariousness of the work, even experienced advertisers spending months unemployed at times. The author also reveals the need for intelligence, as well as the industry's reputation for glamour and in fact frequently the lack of glamour. Censorship is an important issue; as an advertiser the author is usually against it. He also demonstrates the relationships between the various branches in an agency, and how this can malfunction.
The book provides insights into how businesses work and how personalities are important; it has some discussion of the ethics of advertising and censorship but does not examine the methodology or techniques. The author's voice is distinctively from New York, his anecdotes are lively and humorous, and the book moves along at a good pace. Though probably of limited use for most students for curriculum purposes, it is an enjoyable and informative read.
Jenny Hamilton

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