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‘From dream to reality!’ The 1960s spoof that marked the dawn of self-aware advertising

At its height in the 1940s and ’50s, the now-defunct Calvin Company of Kansas City, Missouri was one of the largest and most successful producers of advertising films in the United States. With Your Name Here (1960), Calvin Company offered a wry, tongue-in-cheek satire of its own advertising style. Beginning with a generic retelling of human history before transitioning to a jingoistic story of American exceptionalism, a narrator declares that, for all our collective striving, ingenuity and brilliance, happiness still somehow eludes us. So what’s the solution? A more satisfying tobacco-smoking experience, of course. Or more leisure time. Or whatever it is that your product, service or institution offers. While today the self-aware commercial is a genre unto itself, it’s somewhat jarring to see the form so cleverly executed in this peculiar short, released at the dawn of the Mad Men era – a time when exceeding earnestness in advertising was very much still in fashion.

For this version of the film, Aeon’s video programmer and producer Tamur Qutab provided digital enhancements to the picture and sound.

8 April 2020

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