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The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture,…
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The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of… (1997 original; edició 1998)

de Thomas Frank

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While the youth counterculture remains the most evocative and best-remembered symbol of the cultural ferment of the 1960s, the revolution that shook American business during those boom years has gone largely unremarked. In this fascinating and revealing new study, Thomas Frank shows how the youthful revolutionaries were joined - and even anticipated by - such unlikely allies as the advertising industry and the men's clothing business. In both areas, each having also been an important pillar of fifties conservatism, the utopian, complacent surface of postwar consumerism was smashed by a new breed of admen and manufacturers who openly addressed public distrust of their industries, who recognized the absurdity of consumer society, who made war on conformity, and who finally settled on youth rebellion and counterculture as the symbol of choice for their new marketing vision. The Conquest of Cool is a thorough history of advertising as well as an incisive commentary on the evolution of a peculiarly American sensibility, the pervasive co-optation that defines today's hip commercial culture. By studying the devices and institutions of co-optation rather than those of resistance, Frank offers a picture of the 1960s that differs dramatically from the accounts of youth rebellion and sell-out that have become so familiar over the years. The Conquest of Cool forsakes the stories of campus and bohemia to follow the Dodge Rebellion, chronicle the Pepsi Generation, and recount the Peacock Revolution - by so doing, it raises important new questions about the culture of that most celebrated and maligned decade.… (més)
Membre:sfpirg
Títol:The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism
Autors:Thomas Frank
Informació:University Of Chicago Press (1998), Paperback, 322 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca
Valoració:
Etiquetes:Economics

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The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism de Thomas Frank (1997)

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A friend recommended this to me when I was complaining that it's hard to find good books on post-war advertising, and I'm very glad he did. I've no interest at all in Frank's recent populist books, but this is the one that benefits from that populism: it was a dissertation, and retains the mind-numbing rigor needed by that form; but it's very nicely written and filled with pleasing anecdotes that pull you through the dull bits.

The introduction, particularly, is a masterly statement of the way people--professional historians and we lumpen masses--perceive the sixties: as an era of 'pure' culture that was then coopted by 'corporations' or, failing that, an era in which people 'subverted' the corporate culture that was fed to them via mass media. Frank's research on the culture and theory of advertising firms pretty much destroys this vision: he shows, convincingly, that advertising firms and management theorists pre-empted many, indeed, almost all, of the 60s' 'radical' cultural and social criticisms; if that's not enough, he then does a nice job interpreting the advertising of the time to show that the copy writers and designers and even managers were also putting those criticisms *into* their advertisements.

The later chapters aren't as exciting (particularly the chapter on men's wear says nothing you wouldn't get from common sense), but it's worth reading nonetheless.

This mix of theoretically informed social criticism, business history and cultural history is pretty rare, but clearly there should be more of it. Frank gestures to the idea that the nineties were, similarly, preempted by sixties and seventies advertising firms and management theorists; I wish he'd stop worrying about Kansas, hunker down, and really work through the social movements and business history of the last two decades. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
La conquista de lo cool no sólo hace callar a viejos hippies canosos que recuerdan sus viajes en furgoneta Volkswagen convencidos de que fueron transgresores, sino que además vacuna al público contra el capitalismo moderno que está hoy por todas partes, incluso en estas páginas. ( )
  BibliotecaUNED | Feb 22, 2012 |
In “The Conquest of the Cool” Frank argues that a new style of consumerism grew out of a change in the style of advertising in the late 1950s. He provides a well-written and well-documented history of the business philosophies of the major advertising agencies after World War II and how that philosophy and the agencies changed through the 1960s. He also looks at advertising campaigns in the soft drink and men’s fashion industries. After reading the book I was confused. I wanted to like it, his writing style is easy to read and his points are well made, I enjoy the commentaries he writes for the Wall Street Journal and have been looking forward to reading his book “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” However, this book makes me question the quality of his critical thinking and made me wonder if he should stick to writing about current events and leave historical analysis to historians.
The transition from the post-war style of scientific hard sell to the creative advertising campaigns of the 1960s is carefully documented by Frank as is the transition back to scientific hard sell in the 1970s that he mentions. If Frank’s intention was to examine the changes in the advertising industry in the decades after World War II why did he look ahead to the trends of the 1990s, when the book was written? Mass consumerism and national advertising campaigns were less than a century old when he was writing the book. If the 1990s were worth looking at to support his argument, the pre war period should be worth a look at to see if his theory was sound. Instead of a close look at the pre-war period we get one passing reference to the ‘creative’ surge of the 1930s, a passing reference that could indicate that the ‘creative revolution’ the book documents could be less a revolution and more of a swing in a repeating cycle.
It is the Doyle Dane Bernbach campaign for the 1959 Volkswagen campaign that Frank credits or the birth of the creative movement of the 1960s. However, it is at best a rebirth, since Frank also tells us, in passing, about creative ads in the 1930s. While discussing the images in the early Volkswagen ads he describes them as “black and white and startlingly minimalist” without mentioning their resemblance to the iconography of the fading Beat coffeehouse scene which was black, white and minimalist.
Frank argues that the creative shift in advertising created America’s ‘youth culture’ of revolution, change and ‘mass individualism’. However, the Coke girls of the 1920s represent revolutionary change with their bobbed hair and, for the era, scanty, clothing. The fact that the phrase ‘youth culture’ was coined in the 1960s does not indicate that there was no culture of youth before that date. A rose was a rose even before they were called ‘roses.’ The images used in the 1920s to sell Coke were arguably a greater shift from the images used in the 1910s than the shift in Pepsi’s images from the 1950s ‘Sociables” ads to the 1960s ‘Pepsi Generation’ ads.
Early in the book Frank says he is not seeking “to settle the debate over whether advertising causes cultural change or reflects it” but the only claims he presents are that advertising does indeed our culture. (Frank, 31) He mentions an advertising campaign for the Sierra Club that was “credited by some as having launched environmentalism.” (Frank, 76) and an adman that worked on Pepsi campaigns reflects on “the guilts of maybe having caused this preoccupation with youth, maybe even contributed to some of the rebelliousness that was going on within the country.” (Frank, 173) If Frank was not endorsing the claim that advertising shapes culture simply stating that Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring existed or that the Civil Rights movement predated the advertising campaign could have helped maintained neutrality. Even mentioning the enormity of the ego required to make comments such as these would helped create an illusion of neutrality.
Even though Frank returns to the topic time and time again he fails to provide credible evidence that the ‘hip consumerism’ he discusses is a result of the advertising industry. He even offers a more reasonable explanation for the change in consumer habits. The decline in importance of the Depression/ World War II generation and the rise, in never before seen numbers, of a new generation raised in a time of plenty seems to be a reasonable cause for new purchasing habits of the 1960s consumer.
Frank’s treatment of the advertising industry is completely lacking in the skepticism than he said buyers developed for the scientific hard selling tactics of the 1950s. If he had treated the industry and its claims with the same doubt that inspired the change to more creative advertisements it would have been a more persuasive book. ( )
  TLCrawford | Jan 17, 2010 |
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This is an old story in art, of course, genius vs. the organization. But the [car] customizers don't think of corporate bureaucracy quite the way your conventional artist does, whether he be William Gropper or Larry Rivers, namely, as a lot of small-minded Babbitts, venal enemies of culture, etc. They just think of the big companies as part of the vast mass of adult America, sclerotic from years of just being too old, whose rules and ideas weigh down upon Youth like a vast, bloated sac.

--Tom Wolfe, "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby," 1963
We're young too.

And we're on your side.

We know it's a tough race.

And we want you to win.

--Advertisement for Love Cosmetics, Wells, Rich, Greene Agency, 1969
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For as long as America is torn by culture wars, the 1960s will remain the historical terrain of conflict.
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While the youth counterculture remains the most evocative and best-remembered symbol of the cultural ferment of the 1960s, the revolution that shook American business during those boom years has gone largely unremarked. In this fascinating and revealing new study, Thomas Frank shows how the youthful revolutionaries were joined - and even anticipated by - such unlikely allies as the advertising industry and the men's clothing business. In both areas, each having also been an important pillar of fifties conservatism, the utopian, complacent surface of postwar consumerism was smashed by a new breed of admen and manufacturers who openly addressed public distrust of their industries, who recognized the absurdity of consumer society, who made war on conformity, and who finally settled on youth rebellion and counterculture as the symbol of choice for their new marketing vision. The Conquest of Cool is a thorough history of advertising as well as an incisive commentary on the evolution of a peculiarly American sensibility, the pervasive co-optation that defines today's hip commercial culture. By studying the devices and institutions of co-optation rather than those of resistance, Frank offers a picture of the 1960s that differs dramatically from the accounts of youth rebellion and sell-out that have become so familiar over the years. The Conquest of Cool forsakes the stories of campus and bohemia to follow the Dodge Rebellion, chronicle the Pepsi Generation, and recount the Peacock Revolution - by so doing, it raises important new questions about the culture of that most celebrated and maligned decade.

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