The Real Mad Men: The Convertible Is Your Mistress, The Sedan Your Wife

Posted in Uncategorized by wolferadio11 on December 10, 2009

In an early Mad Men episode, Roger Sterling is asked what women want. “Who cares?” he replies. But the Sixties advertising revolution — invoking Freudian-influenced research — did care. And even more so when it came to what men wanted.

On Tuesday, I went to an Accompanied Literary Society screening for Selling the Sixties,, a BBC documentary that, unfortunately, isn’t scheduled to be aired in the U.S. anytime soon. But the account of how research became a tool for advertising to efficiently exploit desire, sexualizing even the most basic transactions, was so strikingly related to the conversations we have here that I begged for a DVD in order to share a relevant clip.

Whereas in the first episode of Mad Men Don throws a dour Freudian psychoanalyst’s report into the garbage, it’s clear from this clip that his real-life contemporaries weren’t quite so dismissive. Early 60s consumers were becoming jaded and unmoved by the simple pitch. Enter Ernest Dichter, the Viennese psychoanalyst who created “motivational research,” tapping into what he saw as the deepest desires of consumers.

He was also a pioneer of the focus group, including the one seen here, where a woman straightfacedly says of a salad dressing, “I think that it has a place in our American way of life.”

Selling The Sixties [BBC]

Send an email to Irin Carmon, the author of this post, at

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