Would Don Draper Hate Today's Corporate Ad Campaigns?

Would Don Draper Hate Today's Corporate Ad Campaigns?

June 06, 2012
Originally published in The Washington Post

From Suzy Khimm's post in The Washington Post's WonkBlog:

If an ad man like Don Draper saw the groveling, apologetic PR coming from big corporations today, Fred Smith thinks he’d be appalled.

Smith is president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a think-tank “dedicated to advancing the principles of limited government, free enterprise, and individual liberty.” On Tuesday evening, the group hosted a “Mad Men”-themed, $250-a-head gala dinner, where they lamented that today’s corporations have lost the self-assurance business possessed in the 50s and 60s.

The advertisements of Draper’s 1960s “were offering the good life, products that allowed us to be healthier, wealthier,” Smith told the packed ballroom at Washington’s Hyatt-Regency, standing in front of giant vintage photo of a nuclear family watching TV. These days, Smith continued, modern “Mad Men” have a rather more dispiriting message for consumers. “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa,” he said, with mock chagrin. “They don’t say what they’re proud about. Instead, they say they’re not as bad as you think they are.” He singled out BP as the exemplar of corporate America’s new era of shame. “The BP’s of the world, for example, and other energy companies, rus[h] around asking their customers to use less energy,” he said. “Use less energy as an energy company! It suggests we should be ashamed of producing energy. ” The audience—a 600-strong room of conservatives and libertarians—burst into wild applause.