Days Of Conspicuous Consumption – Radio Commercials Of The 60s: Part 2 – More Of Everything – Past Daily Pop Chronicles
As much as the 60s were all about Youth Culture, the spirit of Youth Culture; that permanent fixture of spur-of-the-moment vitality and a certain “who cares about tomorrow” which permeated all facets of advertising from 1961 onwards, we were slowly becoming a mass consumption and disposable society. Anything with the word “old” in it was revamped, repackaged, and redesigned to evoke that breathless and giddy enthusiasm which fairly oozed from the pores of Americas youth, or the minds of Americas advertising community as it perceived this youth explosion. Oldsmobile became Youngmobile and “it’s not your dad’s Oldsmobile”, catchy phrases that evoked a sense of eternal youth and carefree lifestyle.
You could say it got started during the Kennedy era – the youthful President, who extolled the virtues of “vigah” and represented a vast curiosity for life. It was okay to like a lot of things an older generation would have either disapproved of or didn’t make a big deal out of. With youth comes marathon reactions and “The best of all possible worlds” was just the mantra the Marketing pundits wanted. It was also the decade where all those kids born during and after World War 2 started to grow up and became vast sources of ready cash. They took over radio with Rock n’ Roll and Top 40 – they were on their way to taking over Consumerism.
And so – with the first volume it was primarily radio commercials catering to Youth – clothes, soft drinks, hair products, acne medications. This second volume is about the spillover; what the rest of America was listening to on their radios in between records and talk. Still very much geared to high energy and conspicuous consumption, it was also imbued with a sense of quasi-cool and a school of humor that was an extension of the comedy of early TV, evidenced by some of the commercials, one of which features Mel Brooks and Dick Cavett. Most everything (aside from the institutional commercials which the trademark was “solemn and dry”, as always) was geared to instilling a feeling of freedom – at its worst, planned obsolescence with the buzzword “no deposit – no return” becoming the norm for what was to become a culture of disposal and pollution.
You will probably hear a lot that is familiar (if you are of a certain age), but a lot that is baffling if you aren’t. This was what America was listening to in the 1960s; overt or subliminal, these were messages that bombarded us each and every day of a decade bursting at the seams. At the start of the decade we were on the brink of extinction with the Cold War looming over us – as the decade progressed, the fear gave way to fatalism gave way to cynicism gave way to optimism, tinged with “who cares?”. It was also a decade where we stopped being naive and started looking at the world differently. The world may have been brave, but we still had to buy things and advertising helped point the way.
Here’s an hour and the second installment of Pop Culture on a mass scale.