June 17, 2009
Kickin’ Down Madison Ave., Feelin’ Groovy
By STUART ELLIOTT
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.
The recycling of the decade began in earnest three years ago, when Ameriprise Financial
introduced ads with Dennis Hopper, a quintessential symbol of the ’60s as a result of his
roles in films like “Easy Rider.” Other marketers subsequently jumped on the flower-
bedecked bandwagon, including Geico and General Mills.
The trend has accelerated recently, as evidenced by ads from these marketers:
¶The Macy’s division of Macy’s Inc. is selling clothing and footwear for younger men and
women in a campaign carrying the theme “summer of love.”
¶The phrase was also heard in commercials on ABC, part of the Walt Disney Company,
reminding viewers to watch “The Bachelorette.” The spots proclaimed, “One lucky girl’s
summer of love begins.”
¶Ads for another retailer, Children’s Place, depict youngsters in red, white and blue apparel
standing before peace symbols. “Show your true colors,” the ads declare.
¶As part of a series that reprints ads from past decades, Brooks Brothers, owned by Retail
Brand Alliance, is rerunning in newspapers an ad from the ’60s showing an American flag
above the headline “One country, one destiny.”
Some of the ads stretch the metaphor a bit. For instance, 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 is all about making her own decisions,” Nicole Lobkowicz, vice president at
the Luvs agency, Saatchi & Saatchi in New York, part of the Publicis Groupe, said in an e-
mail message. “The ’60s era embodies the culture of thinking for yourself and taking a
“We wanted to bring that spirit to life,” she added, “so we used some of the ’60s music,
colors and styles” to distinguish Luvs from “the expensive diapers.”
The growing prominence of the ’60s is partly a result of the election of Barack Obama,
whose paeans to hope and youthful followers bring to mind the idealism associated with the
The decade “evokes a time when young people were seeking to change society,” said Tim
Ellis, vice president for marketing at Volkswagen of America in Herndon, Va., and “trying to
break free from a stale, tired way of life.”
“I see a lot of similarities with what’s going on with today’s youth,” he added.
Volkswagen of America, a division of Volkswagen, is featuring vintage VWs — a 1963
Microbus and a 1964 Beetle — in a campaign that uses the brand’s heritage to promote its
“The world was moving in our direction in the ’60s,” Mr. Ellis said, referring to “Think
small” and other ads for the Beetle, “and we feel the world is moving in our direction again.”
The Beetle and Microbus campaign is being created by Crispin Porter & Bogusky in Miami
and Boulder, Colo., part of MDC Partners.
Another main reason for the ’60s comeback is the revival of the 1967 musical “Hair,” which
began in March on Broadway and has inspired companies like CBS and Levi Strauss to get
groovy with merchandise and music.
The producers of “Hair” are running their own television and radio commercials to sell
tickets to the show. Those spots remind consumers of the days when denim was known as
blue jeans, there was power in a flower and audiences could be startled by a young black
singer calling himself “the president of the United States of love.”
The songs are “great, no matter how old you are,” said David Goodman, president of the
CBS Interactive Music Group in New York, part of the CBS Interactive unit of the CBS
“The cool thing about ‘Hair’ is that it’s reached a new generation,” he added.
Mr. Goodman introduced this month an Internet-only radio channel named Hair on
Broadway, featuring music from and inspired by the show; it can be heard on Web sites like
cbsradio.com, aol.com and hairbroadway.com. The “Hair” channel is the first from the
interactive music group devoted to one Broadway musical, Mr. Goodman said.
“To use a phrase from ‘Hair,’ it’s a really good acid test of what we can create as part of our
Internet-only radio station offerings,” he added.
Levi Strauss & Company saluted the “Hair” revival with window displays outside and
mannequins inside two Levi’s stores in Manhattan, which appeared through April. A
photograph of the 1969 Woodstock music festival is to remain on windows of the store in
Times Square through early July.
The company is also sponsoring “Hair” and supplying Michael McDonald, the costume
designer, with various types of Levi’s jeans from the ’60s.
And Wawa, a regional chain of convenience stores, is using ’60s psychedelic imagery —
reminiscent of the Beatles in their “Yellow Submarine” period — in a campaign for its
annual “Hoagiefest” sale on sandwiches. The ads, by the Richards Group in Dallas, echo a
campaign that introduced the promotion last summer.
“It really resonated; there were tons of comments,” said Glenn Dady, co-creative director at
Richards with Shane Altman.
“For people in their late 40s and up, it takes them back,” Mr. Dady said of the campaign.
“And the younger people gravitate to it because their video games are playing music from
that time period.”
What’s next, “Hair” the video game?