June 17, 2009

Endless Summer Of Luvs


Looks like the NY Times' advertising columnist Stuart Elliott recently caught the Broadway revival of Hair:

The moon may not be in the seventh house. And only an astrologer knows for sure if Jupiter has aligned with Mars. But it seems like the dawning of the age of Aquarius on Madison Avenue, as images and sounds from the 1960s become increasingly popular in advertising.
This 60's revival trend is one of those unusual trends it takes an expert to detect. It "began in earnest three years ago," and/or it "accelerated recently." It is "all about" both individuality and unity; giant automotive advertising campaigns and department store windows; Boomer nostalgia and idealistic the hipster youth; Obama and JFK [even though he was dead for the 60's in question]; Brooks Brothers, Volkswagens, flip flops and diapers:
...ads for the Procter & Gamble brand Luvs depict cartoon babies, brandishing protest signs and staging a demonstration.

The idea is that Luvs, which costs less than brands like Huggies and Pampers, is fomenting a "revolution" against high diaper prices.

"Our Luvs mom [... -ed.] is all about making her own decisions," Nicole Lobkowicz, vice president at the Luvs agency, Saatchi & Saatchi in New York... "The '60s era embodies the culture of thinking for yourself and taking a stand."

First off, advertisers and other culture producers have been wallowing in the 60's since the Boomers bought their first car. It never stops, which makes it either totally easy or totally pointless to declare an advertising trend. Even if you don't count Austin Powers 1, 2, and 3, the Whitney had a big exhibit of psychedelic art titled, what else? "Summer of Love" in 2007, which had been at the Tate in 2005. Hair opened in March.


Even Luvs--and this is what is so ridiculous about Elliott's hippie-colored glasses--even Luvs launched that Lovestock commercial last fall. But they were using 60's music in their commercials since at least 2007, as the AP reported:

Summer of Luvs? Beatles heard in diaper ads/
Riled fans complain: 'John Lennon must be rolling over in his grave'
Yes, Lennon must be pissed, especially if the Luvs thing interferes with Yoko's licensing agreement to put John's animal doodles on Wal-Mart store brand diapers.

But I don't know what's more exasperating; the NY Times' adman forgetting Austin Powers or forgetting Thomas Frank. As Frank has been documenting for over 15 years, advertisers have been appropriating the rebellious values of the supposed counterculture and using them to sell absolutely everything since before there was even a counterculture. He even wrote an entire book about advertisers' co-option of the 60's called The Conquest of Cool. It came out in 1997.

Kickin' Down Madison Ave., Feelin' Groovy [nyt]

1 Comment

I wonder if he just happened to wander into a Target and noticed that they're selling purses and things with a print of the Woodstock poster this summer. Has he not noticed that the "summer of love" is a pretty good marketing ploy EVERY summer? There will always be teenagers wanting their one last summer of freedom, and tying it to an almost mystical era is the perfect ad for those coming of age.

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