Stein IAS on pre-modern marketing and the legend of Madison Avenue

Those were the days my friends - Tom Stein on Madison Avenue / HBO

When you think of the term Madison Avenue, what springs to mind? The legendary beginnings of capitalist advertising with Lucky Strike; mad men roaming the streets of New York speaking to women about the joys of tobacco? With a career spanning three decades, Tom Stein, chief creative officer at Stein IAS, looks back to the dawn of our times. The beginning of advertising pre-digital, pre-internet, and ultimately, pre-modern marketing.

To promote the release of his book-in-progress, Paradox: Feeling Machines and the Rise of Post-Modern Marketing, Stein ventures down memory lane and reminisces about the time when the Don Drapers of the world and drams of whisky knocked advertising out the park.

In 1919, Eddie Bernays (Sigmund Freud’s nephew) introduced the business world to psychoanalysis and Freud’s “Self.” He demonstrated to huge corporations that by speaking to consumers and connecting the products to their deep desires, they could sell quite a lot. Imagine that.

One of his first, and momentous challenges was to advertise Lucky Strike to non-smokers. Bernays investigated why the non-smoking half of the population (women) did not partake in a draws of cigarettes every day. He discovered that apparently, smoking was associated with “male power”. Using the power of psychoanalysis and pure emotion and flattery, he was able to double the takings of Lucky Strike, and hooked women to smoking. So, marketing really could change behaviours.

From that point onwards, creativity was propelled for half a century, fuelled by sheer guts and imagination until digital and measurability stole the hearts of creative minds. To contradict this negative view, Mike Ruby, Stein IAS chief content and experience officer said: “People lost sight of the fact that we can make really cool and intuitive and fun and interesting things, and still have the technology to make it structured, shareable, measurable and multidimensional.”

Stein concurs, and believes that actually, instead of digital impeding our creativity, it is paving the way to more magical things, that the old school Madison Avenue folk could never have imagined, even after a bottle of Glenfiddich and a twenty-deck. It’s the beginning of a new era, the beginning of post-modern marketing.

Read more of Tom Stein’s thoughts in his new book, here.

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