Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Will the Harper Conservatives need some major DDB to win the next election?

Chris Matthews Gives Obama the Mad Men Treatment

By Major Garrett
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

In advance of tonight's return of Mad Men, Chris Matthews used his long-form Sunday show to produce a tribute of President Obama in the form of Don Draper, the flawed yet brilliant lead character of a Madison Avenue ad agency in the early 1960s. The hit show returns to American Movie Classics on Sunday night after a 17-month hiatus due in part to contractual squabbles.

The montage resembles the opening of Mad Men and depicts Obama first walking into the Oval Office. He sets down his brief case. On the right frame pictures of First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and family dog Bo appear. Then Obama, like the opening to Mad Men, begins to "fall" through an array of challenges posed by Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. Then Obama falls deeper, passing, along the way, images of high unemployment, high gas prices, the national debt, birth control pills, Iran, GM, and auto assembly lines. Finally, Obama is seated, just as Draper is depicted to be in the opening of Mad Men, in a leather chair. Instead of Mad Men appearing alongside the image, the words "Chief Exec" appear.

The video montage appeared in Sunday's Chris Matthews Show, a 30-minute discussion of the week's news or special topics featuring some of Washington's best-known reporters. (Full disclosure: I have been a guest on the show several times.)

Mad Men is a fictional representation of one of Madison Avenue's most important ad agencies, Doyle Dane Bernbach. Its legendary leader, Bill Bernbach, revolutionized TV and print advertising by emphasizing simplicity and directness with non-conventional appeals to consumer emotions to boost sales. The firm, commonly known as DDB, also created TV ads for President Lyndon Johnson's 1964 presidential campaign. Before his assassination, President Kennedy decided to modernize his own advertising for his re-election bid and commissioned DDB for the task. When Johnson sought a term in his own right after succeeding Kennedy, he kept the firm.

DDB created a very tough anti-Goldwater ad using the quotes of prominent Republicans he had defeated in pursuit of the nomination, among them Michigan Governor George Romney. In that sense, the Romney name has spanned generations and cultural touchstones. DDB used the words of George Romney against Goldwater. In today's show, Matthews used images of Mitt Romney as Obama is "falling" through the campaign season.

But the ad featuring Romney and other Republican critics of Goldwater, was hardly DDB's most important work in 1964. That was the celebrated, infamous and unforgettable "Daisy Girl" ad. It stands as among the toughest--if not the toughest--TV ad in presidential campaign history, implying, as it did, that a vote for Johnson's opponent, Arizona Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater, could lead to nuclear war. Interestingly, the ad did not move public opinion after its one-and-only airing. But it did set a new standard for brass-knuckle presidential TV ads.

Perhaps the Matthews montage of Mad Men will set a new standard for cultural-journalistic commingling.


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