The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism

The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism

Thomas Frank

Language: English

Pages: 322

ISBN: 0226260127

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

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 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.

"[Thomas Frank is] perhaps the most provocative young cultural critic of the moment."—Gerald Marzorati, New York Times Book Review

"An indispensable survival guide for any modern consumer."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Frank makes an ironclad case not only that the advertising industry cunningly turned the countercultural rhetoric of revolution into a rallying cry to buy more stuff, but that the process itself actually predated any actual counterculture to exploit."—Geoff Pevere, Toronto Globe and Mail

"The Conquest of Cool helps us understand why, throughout the last third of the twentieth century, Americans have increasingly confused gentility with conformity, irony with protest, and an extended middle finger with a populist manifesto. . . . His voice is an exciting addition to the soporific public discourse of the late twentieth century."—T. J. Jackson Lears, In These Times

"An invaluable argument for anyone who has ever scoffed at hand-me-down counterculture from the '60s. A spirited and exhaustive analysis of the era's advertising."—Brad Wieners, Wired Magazine

"Tom Frank is . . . not only old-fashioned, he's anti-fashion, with a place in his heart for that ultimate social faux pas, leftist politics."—Roger Trilling, Details














Polykoff of Foote, Cone, and Belding, the author of the Clairol “Does She or Doesn’t She” campaign). But, by and large, most admen were, in fact, male. 2. Frederic Wakeman, The Hucksters (New York: Rinehart, 1946). The epigraph is from pp. 295–96; the quotations are from pp. 88 and 294–95. 3. As Frederic Wakeman’s former employer, Fairfax Cone of Foote, Cone, and Belding (the company that once handled the Lucky Strike account), wrote in 1969, “Even in 1946 advertising agency practice had gone

University library. 33. Volkswagen advertisements, Life, February 10, 1961; November 10, 1961; July 15, 1966. 34. Volkswagen advertisements, Life, April 17, 1964; September 16, 1966; February 4, 1966. This last ad contained this immortal line: “When you drive the latest fad to a party, and find 2 more fads there ahead of you, it catches you off your avantgarde.” 35. Volkswagen ads, reproduced in 1964, 1963 Annuals. 36. Volkswagen advertisement, 1965 Annual. 37. Volkswagen commercial, Museum

of the New Left, but (illogically and anachronistically) for the hated policies of the Great Society as well. Journalist Fred Barnes outlines a “theory of American history” related to him by Gingrich in which the 1960s represent a crucial break, “a discontinuity.” From 1607 down till 1965, “there is a core pattern to American history. Here’s how we did it until the Great Society messed everything up: don’t work, don’t eat; your salvation is spiritual; the government by definition can’t save you;

profession in which people with bottomless energy, either still idealistic or nondisillusionable, had excelled.18 But in the sixties, the prevalence of youth became so lopsided that it inspired concerned commentary in the industry press.19 By 1968, the notion that only rebellious young people could make good copywriters and art directors was so prevalent that E. B. Weiss, whose Ad Age columns oscillated between the decade’s two burning topics of creativity and youth culture, entitled one effort

the notion that business mimics and mass-produces fake counterculture in order to cash in on a particular demographic and to subvert the great threat that “real” counterculture represents. Who Built America?, the textbook produced by the American Social History project, includes a reproduction of the now-infamous “Man Can’t Bust Our Music” ad and this caption summary of co-optation theory: “If you can’t beat ’em, absorb ’em.” The text below explains the phenomenon as a question of demographics

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