“Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is okay. You are okay.” —Don Draper, Mad Men
In 1973 the British advertising firm of Allen, Brady, & Marsh was asked to devise a campaign for R. White’s Lemonade.
The men behind ABM were, to put it in Mad Men terms – more American, perhaps, but certainly ad-biz-apt – much more of the perpetually-amused Roger Sterling school than that of ever-tortured Don Draper: Peter Marsh was a onetime music-hall actor and television documentarian; Rod Allen was a former Signal Corps member with a literary bent – in the service he had a side business ghostwriting his bunkmates’ letters home in exchange for their performing his KP duty. Teamed with the straitlaced data-analysis expert Michael Brady – every ad agency needs its Pete Campbell too, no offense to Brady – the pair became a kind of comedy duo, their pitch sessions featuring Marsh in a white suit and a straw hat, warbling jingles as Allen played ramshackle piano in accompaniment. Allen, in particular, was a kind of musical genius, and I probably do him a disservice by prefacing that assertion with a softener: his great gift, bestowed by the gods, was for thirty-second songs that packed in as many repetitions of the product name as possible, and the ditties he penned are as memorable, in many cases as well-known, as any rock and roll song: Whitbread Big Head Trophy Bitter’s presentation as “the pint that thinks it’s a quart”; British Rail’s haunting paean to “The Age Of The Train”; the almost maddeningly catchy campaign for the Milk Board that declared milk has “gotta lotta bottle.” It’s doubtful Allen, Brady, & Marsh’s team had any sort of Draper-esque existential crisis over the R. White’s account – which is not to belittle the brilliance of what they came up with. The adverts were simplicity itself: this lemonade, they suggested, is so good it’s a guilty pleasure, something you consume in the shadows and sneak away from your wife to slurp down late at night, the way an alcoholic might nip from a stashed-away bottle when nobody’s looking. They inverted expectation, rendering the innocent jokingly illicit. They made you want to drink lemonade, because something already fun and sweet and fizzy had suddenly been shot through with a charge of naughtiness or even danger. Read More