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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 study, Thomas Frank shows how the youthful revolutionaries were joined—and even anticipated —by such unlikely allies as t 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


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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 study, Thomas Frank shows how the youthful revolutionaries were joined—and even anticipated —by such unlikely allies as t 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

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

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    This is a rare book where I had a hard time deciding between the "academic" and "popular" history categories. Are the two mutually exclusive? Maybe not in this case - I let the publisher decide for me; the University of Chicago Press is undeniably an "academic" publisher. The author is probably best known as the editor of "The Baffler," which is described on the back of the book as a "cultural criticism journal." His other accomplishments do seem confined to the area of journalism and commentary This is a rare book where I had a hard time deciding between the "academic" and "popular" history categories. Are the two mutually exclusive? Maybe not in this case - I let the publisher decide for me; the University of Chicago Press is undeniably an "academic" publisher. The author is probably best known as the editor of "The Baffler," which is described on the back of the book as a "cultural criticism journal." His other accomplishments do seem confined to the area of journalism and commentary of current events, but nevertheless, this is a well-researched work of history, as well as an unusually entertaining read. Frank's thesis with this book is fairly simple: that the so-called "counter-culture" of the sixties, far from being co-opted by consumer culture, was in fact intrinsically linked to it from the outset. The values which this sub-culture espoused were, in fact, anticipated within advertising culture by at least a decade, and they meshed perfectly with the message of liberation through personal choice rather than mass action which advertisers used when targeting youth. Frank observes that "fantasies of rebellion, liberation, and outright 'revolution' against the stultifying demands of mass society are commonplace" within the mass cultural products of the United States, even up to the time of his writing (1997), and this, he says, comes from an attitude that started on Madison Avenue long before it reached Haight-Ashbury. Frank traces the development of this attitude in literary sources and memoirs of advertising executives, who strove, from the late 1950s onward, to be the hippest folks around, and who challenged management theories that encouraged conformity for the simple reason that conformity didn't sell. By the time of the summer of love it was easy for advertisers to market to young people, as with the "Uncola" campaign of 7Up, because these people had grown up speaking the same language as the advertisers themselves. Frank's use of sources does at times leave one wondering what might be left out of the picture - did older more "conformist" styles live longer in ads for laundry detergent, say, than for cars and soda pop? But the argument presented is fascinating and worth considering for anyone interested in the cultural history of the United States.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    Great book. If you'd like me to elaborate with a 1,000 + word review, I accept both cash and personal checks. Great book. If you'd like me to elaborate with a 1,000 + word review, I accept both cash and personal checks.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    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 p 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.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brett

    A surprisingly obtuse effort from Thomas Frank. The premise of this book is to challenge the notion that the counter-culture of the 1960s was some kind of organic and pure force that was subsequently co-opted by consumer culture. Instead Frank argues that the counter-culture was in some ways a product of changing advertising techniques; that the values of the counter-culture were pre-figured by changes in advertising. The Conquest of Cool's style is very academic and somewhat repetive. What's mo A surprisingly obtuse effort from Thomas Frank. The premise of this book is to challenge the notion that the counter-culture of the 1960s was some kind of organic and pure force that was subsequently co-opted by consumer culture. Instead Frank argues that the counter-culture was in some ways a product of changing advertising techniques; that the values of the counter-culture were pre-figured by changes in advertising. The Conquest of Cool's style is very academic and somewhat repetive. What's more, it is a long way from making any kind of definitive point that massive social upheaval that began in the 1960 was based solely or primarily on responding to changes in advertising style. Frank is convincing in showing that changes in popular culture were reflected in changes within advertising agencies and in the candor of the ads that were produced by those agencies. But that's hardly surprising is it? There is very little cultural ground that did not undergo serious change during this period. Frank demonstrates that there is more going on than the familiar story of capitalistic co-option, but does not demonstrate that the basic framework of the narrative is wrong. On the other hand, the book is interesting as a straightforward history of some aspects of advertising, especially automobile advertising. It also has a good chapter on Coke and Pepsi's never ending feud. But it doesn't hint much at Frank's future as a political theorist, and doesn't succeed in the fundamental challenge to popular conceptions as some others seem to think it does.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Will

    Five Key Points: 1. Management and business (capitalism) in the 1960s underwent a counterculture revolution just as dramatic as that found in the streets: "Postwar American capitalism was hardly the unchanging and soulless machine imagined by countercultural leaders; it was as dynamic a force in its own way as the revolutionary youth movements of the period, undertaking dramatic transformations." (6) 2. Book examines 'co-option' of counterculture by business, seeking to go beyond traditional vilif Five Key Points: 1. Management and business (capitalism) in the 1960s underwent a counterculture revolution just as dramatic as that found in the streets: "Postwar American capitalism was hardly the unchanging and soulless machine imagined by countercultural leaders; it was as dynamic a force in its own way as the revolutionary youth movements of the period, undertaking dramatic transformations." (6) 2. Book examines 'co-option' of counterculture by business, seeking to go beyond traditional vilification of it: "This book is... an analysis of the forces and logic that make rebel youth cultures so attractive to corporate decision-makers." (7) 3. A radical section of American businessmen saw the counterculture as a kindred spirit in their own attempts to revitalise society: "Many in American business... imagined the counterculture not as an enemy to be undermined or a threat to consumer culture, but as a hopeful sign, a symbolic ally in their struggles against the mountains of dead-weight procedure and hierarchy." (9) 4. The capillaries of countercultural thought in business stretch into the 1950s, with a turn against hierarchy and towards creativity gradually becoming more popular: "Even in the most complacent management literature of the fifties one finds harbingers of dissent and upheaval." (21) 5. Consumerism was able to remain such a powerful part of American society through its ability to allow individuals to show dissent- including dissent towards consumerism! "No longer would Americans buy to fit in or impress the Joneses, but to demonstrate that they were wise to the game , to express their revulsion with the artifice and conformity of consumerism."

  6. 4 out of 5

    Justin Gerhardstein

    This book is an advertising classic that describes how advertisers have taken what is "cool" (which usually involves the trends of non-conformity and rebellion) and packaged it, and re-sold it to the non-conformists. Perfect example: Even hippies shop for clothes that suit their fancy, and at the beginning of the production line is managers that are picking apart the hippie psyche and marketing to that demographic. This concept, which is refered to as co-optation, is not the only topic that is b This book is an advertising classic that describes how advertisers have taken what is "cool" (which usually involves the trends of non-conformity and rebellion) and packaged it, and re-sold it to the non-conformists. Perfect example: Even hippies shop for clothes that suit their fancy, and at the beginning of the production line is managers that are picking apart the hippie psyche and marketing to that demographic. This concept, which is refered to as co-optation, is not the only topic that is breached, but all-in-all, the book tells of how "cool" has been interpreted and successfully adapted by advertisers to sell "cool". Not too long of a read, about 250 pages, but it covers the basics of hip consumerism.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Maryana Pinchuk

    Matthew Weiner owes Thomas Frank some serious royalties, or: if you haven't watched all 8 seasons of Mad Men and want the Cliff's Notes, just read this book. Matthew Weiner owes Thomas Frank some serious royalties, or: if you haven't watched all 8 seasons of Mad Men and want the Cliff's Notes, just read this book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Phi Beta Kappa Authors

    Thomas Frank ΦBK, University of Virginia, 1987 Author From the publisher: 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 busines Thomas Frank ΦBK, University of Virginia, 1987 Author From the publisher: 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

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Valoren

    A pretty fascinating work. Frank explicates the relationship between advertisers and consumers during the 50's through the 90's as one of symbiosis: many of the ad-men capitalizing on cool were, themselves, part of the same generational cohort they were repackaging hip culture and selling it back to. It’s easy to think of marketing in explicitly cynical terms, but Frank deftly points out an obvious truth that is easily overlooked when one discusses companies as though they were people: that comp A pretty fascinating work. Frank explicates the relationship between advertisers and consumers during the 50's through the 90's as one of symbiosis: many of the ad-men capitalizing on cool were, themselves, part of the same generational cohort they were repackaging hip culture and selling it back to. It’s easy to think of marketing in explicitly cynical terms, but Frank deftly points out an obvious truth that is easily overlooked when one discusses companies as though they were people: that companies are not actual people, but instead are comprised of them, and that while the pursuit of capital is the ultimate goal of any company, the ways and means whereby that goal is achieved and the extent to which it is pursued will vary depending upon the individuals in the organization. “Ad men” were not robots, and in some cases their attempts at marketing also served the dual purpose of being earnest attempts at creating art. With that said, Frank apologizes a little too much for the earnestness of the hip ad men. Ultimately their purpose is still to appropriate outsider culture and repackage it as something attractive and toothless for the purpose of commodification. The Conquest of Cool serves as a compelling look at the playbook of the more sympathetic contingent of the advertising industry, useful as a warning. But as an apologia for ad men and capitalism, I have no sympathy.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Scott Robinson

    The book delivers the idea that counterculture was born from the 60s. It advances that argument by analysis of changes in both advertising and menswear. Written in the '90s, it closes on the idea that the hip/square dichotomy and the eternal "youth" angle was reused for Generation X. I'm writing from 2020, and I think it's reasonable to say the author would say it's been reused for at least another generation since. While I don't buy the date of birth— what a coincidence it arrived with the autho The book delivers the idea that counterculture was born from the 60s. It advances that argument by analysis of changes in both advertising and menswear. Written in the '90s, it closes on the idea that the hip/square dichotomy and the eternal "youth" angle was reused for Generation X. I'm writing from 2020, and I think it's reasonable to say the author would say it's been reused for at least another generation since. While I don't buy the date of birth— what a coincidence it arrived with the author— the breakdown of what is a hip ad stands up: • show evidence of minimalism or graphic sophistication • speak flippantly of the prouct in question or show it damaged or defiled in some way • mock consumer culture or address the problems of mass society • speak of "escape," defiance, resisting crowds, rebellion, nonconformity • use the imagery of the counterculture (not just any youth culture and not just any reference to "generations" is sufficient)

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mtume Gant

    Excellent account of how capitalism commodified the counter culture and helped make rebellion an individualist market based activity. It’s a little over exhaustive which is probably more helpful for those who want all the nuances but for someone who doesn’t need every detail it can come redundant in the middle, but it’s excellent and an extremely important document of the socialization of the American social appetite

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I think I'd hoped for a little more on business culture and hip consumerism, but this is mostly a (fairly repetitive) history of advertising in the 1950s and 60s, with a chapter or two on fashion. I got led to this through a podcast's referencing it, and honestly, the hour long podcast covered most of the interesting bits. This could have been a very long essay, and much of the book feels like filler. (Although the essay would have been very interesting.) I think I'd hoped for a little more on business culture and hip consumerism, but this is mostly a (fairly repetitive) history of advertising in the 1950s and 60s, with a chapter or two on fashion. I got led to this through a podcast's referencing it, and honestly, the hour long podcast covered most of the interesting bits. This could have been a very long essay, and much of the book feels like filler. (Although the essay would have been very interesting.)

  13. 4 out of 5

    J.Christopher Proctor

    If you liked What's the Matter with Kansas do yourself a favor and read Conquest of Cool. It's a hell of a lot more academic, but you can see the seeds of so much of Frank's later work. It also changes how you see culture and advertising. Not an easy read but well worth it. If you liked What's the Matter with Kansas do yourself a favor and read Conquest of Cool. It's a hell of a lot more academic, but you can see the seeds of so much of Frank's later work. It also changes how you see culture and advertising. Not an easy read but well worth it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    Very important book for anyone who wants to look beyond the myth of the Sixties, especially the one that posits a counterculture in (as the word implies) deep opposition to the "mainstream" of American society. Focusing on the advertising industry and the men's fashion industry, Frank tracks the rise of "hip capitalism," which, more often than not, anticipated and perhaps shaped (rather than simply coopted) the rebellious energies celebrated in the myth. His central point is an important one: th Very important book for anyone who wants to look beyond the myth of the Sixties, especially the one that posits a counterculture in (as the word implies) deep opposition to the "mainstream" of American society. Focusing on the advertising industry and the men's fashion industry, Frank tracks the rise of "hip capitalism," which, more often than not, anticipated and perhaps shaped (rather than simply coopted) the rebellious energies celebrated in the myth. His central point is an important one: the advertising industry was largely successful in its attempts to sell the idea that the best way to rebel against a dull, anti-creative culture drowning in its own materialism was to buy something. On a purely personal level, it rings true; Frank made me reflect on my own consumption, especially of cultural products. Pursuing that train of thought is for another time, but the celebration of rebellion, individuality, etc., has obviously continued to shape capitalism's engagement with consumers. Frank backs up his argument with several types of evidence: the stories of individual admen (and a very few adwomen--he doesn't hesitate to skewer the industry's sexism, but doesn't bog the argument down in elaborating the obvious); the conversations going on in the industry press; incisive and amusing analyses of particular ads and ad campaigns--I've had those idiotic Pepsi jingles bubbling up over the last few days--and just a bit of cultural theory. Only a couple of criticisms. First, the repetitions of the generalizations--accurate though they are--get a bit, well, repetitious. Second, he's a lot better on advertising than on fashion. I'm absolutely convinced that advertising played an important role in shaping the sixties, but fashion seems like a distinctly secondary force, more an echo of larger forces than a key element in their configuration.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    When and how did advertising become so hip and snarky? How is it that so many symbols of 60s counterculture, which ostensibly eschewed consumerism, became co-opted and used as tools by the advertising industry? How did the ad agencies manage to take people's growing resentment of consumer society and harness it to create (!) an acceleration of consumption? What surprised me most was learning that feelings of disillusionment and even disgust with "the mass society" were becoming quite widespread b When and how did advertising become so hip and snarky? How is it that so many symbols of 60s counterculture, which ostensibly eschewed consumerism, became co-opted and used as tools by the advertising industry? How did the ad agencies manage to take people's growing resentment of consumer society and harness it to create (!) an acceleration of consumption? What surprised me most was learning that feelings of disillusionment and even disgust with "the mass society" were becoming quite widespread by the early 60s. The book cites a 1961 essay in Harper's, written by Howard Gossage (who was an ad man himself). You can read it here if you're a subscriber. The essay is amazingly critical of the notion of perpetually expanding consumption: Both [political:] parties swore fealty to ever-expanding production; this presumably based on ever-expanding population and ever-expanding consumption. Not only are all of these terms plainly impossible, but unnerving as well. Put like that, our economy sounds like nothing so much as the granddaddy of all chain letters. All you can do is hope to get your name to the top of the list, or die, before something happens (like peace) and the whole thing collapses. This book provides a good overview of the sea change in advertising tactics that took place between the late 50s and early 70s. I was kind of hoping for more merciless skewering of overconsumption and consumer culture, but Frank does a good job of staying (mostly) neutral. I am interested in checking out some of the other works he cites, such as Jackson Lears's books on the history of advertising in America.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Charity

    Throughout his book, Thomas Frank conveyed the idea that even through their rebellion, the youth of 1960s were bound to consumerism. They couldn’t escape consumerism, though they tried. While conformity had been a “bulwark” of mass society, the 1960s meant an endless string of appeals to “defy conformity, to rebel, to stand out”, and “to be one’s self” (137). This appealed to mankind as a whole, because it allowed them to essentially justify the consumption of goods while still retaining their i Throughout his book, Thomas Frank conveyed the idea that even through their rebellion, the youth of 1960s were bound to consumerism. They couldn’t escape consumerism, though they tried. While conformity had been a “bulwark” of mass society, the 1960s meant an endless string of appeals to “defy conformity, to rebel, to stand out”, and “to be one’s self” (137). This appealed to mankind as a whole, because it allowed them to essentially justify the consumption of goods while still retaining their individuality. Through the ages, mankind has sought an identity; a way to stand out and be counted. The rise of hip consumerism was the answer for the 1960s. Frank’s book aides in better understanding the marketing and advertising side of the 1960s, but it also sheds light on a common theme found even today: consumerism isn’t going away but evolving. What then was viewed as rebellion against hierarchy or conformity, is what can be called today as the ‘be yourself’ or ‘believe in yourself’ movement. The book is fairly well-documented, crediting over 530 sources. There were definitely a few dry areas and some repetition in the last 4 chapters on hip consumerism, but overall Frank still effectively conveyed the effect of youth culture on the rise of hip consumerism. While not a book for your average reader, it is a useful addition to the library of anyone interested in business, history of the latter half of the nineteen-hundreds, or consumerism culture. The 1960s was an age of embracing the unexpected, throwing off the shackles of conformity, and turning consumerism into something fashionable.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dan Gorman

    Really ambitious and interesting look at how the advertising agencies and fashion houses of the 1960s co-opted parts of the counterculture. In a few cases, advertising strategies even anticipated elements of counterculture aesthetics. The material is breezy and colorful, especially when talking about the personalities at the big ad companies, but the book feels incomplete. We learn only about a few ad firms and products in details. Extra case studies would have been nice, especially since the ap Really ambitious and interesting look at how the advertising agencies and fashion houses of the 1960s co-opted parts of the counterculture. In a few cases, advertising strategies even anticipated elements of counterculture aesthetics. The material is breezy and colorful, especially when talking about the personalities at the big ad companies, but the book feels incomplete. We learn only about a few ad firms and products in details. Extra case studies would have been nice, especially since the appendix examines "hip" advertising for a range of products not mentioned in the main text. I would have liked to learn more about gender at ad firms, as the WRG firm had a female president in a highly misogynistic era.

  18. 4 out of 5

    David

    Although the four-star rating translates into "I loved it," I'm most comfortable with "I liked it," though I don't think that three stars would be fair. I really like Frank's thesis, but it seemed that he spent too much time describingt the various advertisements the book is supposed to analyze. There is analysis, but I really wanted more. It seemed that Frank could have done much more, perhaps examining the ways that the standard narrative of the rise of '60s youth culture actually came to be a Although the four-star rating translates into "I loved it," I'm most comfortable with "I liked it," though I don't think that three stars would be fair. I really like Frank's thesis, but it seemed that he spent too much time describingt the various advertisements the book is supposed to analyze. There is analysis, but I really wanted more. It seemed that Frank could have done much more, perhaps examining the ways that the standard narrative of the rise of '60s youth culture actually came to be accepted. I think that in pulling back and thinking about the book I could put everything together, but I think the book would be more successful if it did this itself.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Fred

    i haven't read this one in a while, but i passed it while browsing this site for new books to read and wanted to give it a nod, sort of as a thumbs up to the whole tom frank oeuvre. i think the two books after this might be a bit stronger, but this one is excellent as well. as someone who works in the ad industry, i found his first hand account of attending an "account planning" conference accurate and chilling. also, i wanted to use this review to put in a plug for tom as a great polemical writ i haven't read this one in a while, but i passed it while browsing this site for new books to read and wanted to give it a nod, sort of as a thumbs up to the whole tom frank oeuvre. i think the two books after this might be a bit stronger, but this one is excellent as well. as someone who works in the ad industry, i found his first hand account of attending an "account planning" conference accurate and chilling. also, i wanted to use this review to put in a plug for tom as a great polemical writer. he gets discussed a lot for his ideas, but his strong, clear, funny prose usually gets ignored and it shouldn't.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gordon Hilgers

    This, the first of Thomas Frank's many acclaimed books, takes on the cultural revolution of the sixties as peered through the lens of advertising, shows how advertising both helped to create and to co-opt the youth movements and the rebellions in style, culture and politics, and he does so in a very unique and entertaining way. Moving from the Organization Man of the 1950s with its gray flannel suits and conformity, Frank details the advertising explosion that accompanied America's first inkling This, the first of Thomas Frank's many acclaimed books, takes on the cultural revolution of the sixties as peered through the lens of advertising, shows how advertising both helped to create and to co-opt the youth movements and the rebellions in style, culture and politics, and he does so in a very unique and entertaining way. Moving from the Organization Man of the 1950s with its gray flannel suits and conformity, Frank details the advertising explosion that accompanied America's first inkling of newness since perhaps the Twenties. This unique way of looking at an explosive decade is worth the reading, and I have done so twice.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    One of those books that would probably work better as a long magazine article - though the accretion of detail to demonstrate the thesis is impressive, there are times when one is tempted to say "OK, I'll take your word for it". In this case, all the examples are consistently entertaining, since the subject is 1960s advertising (or, more broadly, the transformation of advertising in the 1960s into what is still the predominant style, you know, the one you're too cool to be taken in by) - a livel One of those books that would probably work better as a long magazine article - though the accretion of detail to demonstrate the thesis is impressive, there are times when one is tempted to say "OK, I'll take your word for it". In this case, all the examples are consistently entertaining, since the subject is 1960s advertising (or, more broadly, the transformation of advertising in the 1960s into what is still the predominant style, you know, the one you're too cool to be taken in by) - a livelier topic than banking, for instance.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ishkilmer

    An interesting re-examination of how advertising and the business world interacted with the youth culture movement of the 1960s in a way that is more complex and nuanced than one might believe. He makes a great argument with loads of examples. It gets a little repetitive at times, as if the different chapters were published separately, and it is perhaps too academic in tone. I would also liked to have seen more analysis of how the concept of the 1960s have been recycled in the 1990s. However, I An interesting re-examination of how advertising and the business world interacted with the youth culture movement of the 1960s in a way that is more complex and nuanced than one might believe. He makes a great argument with loads of examples. It gets a little repetitive at times, as if the different chapters were published separately, and it is perhaps too academic in tone. I would also liked to have seen more analysis of how the concept of the 1960s have been recycled in the 1990s. However, I really enjoyed this book and its capacity to help the reader see things in a new way.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Luke Echo

    This is a very detailed analysis of advertising trends in the USA in the 1960s. Frank makes some interesting points against the standard "Co-Option" theme which seem particularly valid with the early VW advertising Campaigns which seemed to predate and even suggest the rise of "Counter-Culture". However it does get bogged down in details in the middle and the ultimate thrust is a little lost. You could probably skip some of the middle chapters and not really miss much. The section on the rise of This is a very detailed analysis of advertising trends in the USA in the 1960s. Frank makes some interesting points against the standard "Co-Option" theme which seem particularly valid with the early VW advertising Campaigns which seemed to predate and even suggest the rise of "Counter-Culture". However it does get bogged down in details in the middle and the ultimate thrust is a little lost. You could probably skip some of the middle chapters and not really miss much. The section on the rise of the "Peacock Revolution" in Mens Fashion was quite good though

  24. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    One can get a much better distillation of the book's thesis in the newer "Nation of Rebels" by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter or from "Commodify Your Dissent" a collection of columns from Frank's seminal journal of political/cultural criticism "The Baffler". In columns, Thomas Frank is one of my all-time favorite political observers, but in books he is often long-winded and repetitive. This is one of those times. One can get a much better distillation of the book's thesis in the newer "Nation of Rebels" by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter or from "Commodify Your Dissent" a collection of columns from Frank's seminal journal of political/cultural criticism "The Baffler". In columns, Thomas Frank is one of my all-time favorite political observers, but in books he is often long-winded and repetitive. This is one of those times.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dern

    The phenomenon of how 'cool' gets sold by advertisers has its roots in 1960s ad agencies like DDB, where Art Directors have guru status and the more conformist/scientific 1950s methodologies are rejected. The depressing result is that, in the end, it all gets co-opted and re-sold to people who don't know any better. I enjoyed it, but there is lots of repetition within the case studies and some of the language is more constipated than necessary. The phenomenon of how 'cool' gets sold by advertisers has its roots in 1960s ad agencies like DDB, where Art Directors have guru status and the more conformist/scientific 1950s methodologies are rejected. The depressing result is that, in the end, it all gets co-opted and re-sold to people who don't know any better. I enjoyed it, but there is lots of repetition within the case studies and some of the language is more constipated than necessary.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    I haven't read this in a few years, but it seemed relevant to the topic of authenticity. If I remember correctly, the premise is that our current belief that advertising "co-opted" 60s youth culture is not entirely accurate. Frank argues and provides evidences that advertising influenced the culture of the 60s as much as it borrowed from that culture. I found that idea fascinating and its made me think more critically about how advertising shapes the way we think about ourselves. I haven't read this in a few years, but it seemed relevant to the topic of authenticity. If I remember correctly, the premise is that our current belief that advertising "co-opted" 60s youth culture is not entirely accurate. Frank argues and provides evidences that advertising influenced the culture of the 60s as much as it borrowed from that culture. I found that idea fascinating and its made me think more critically about how advertising shapes the way we think about ourselves.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Todd Martin

    The Conquest of Cool is an analysis of the transformation of advertising from the 1950's through the 1960's as advertisers learned to co-opt culture as a means of selling their products. Frank is a very good writer whose other books I've enjoyed. Unfortunately I found the topic of this book so esoteric it was a bit difficult to relate to. The Conquest of Cool is an analysis of the transformation of advertising from the 1950's through the 1960's as advertisers learned to co-opt culture as a means of selling their products. Frank is a very good writer whose other books I've enjoyed. Unfortunately I found the topic of this book so esoteric it was a bit difficult to relate to.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cassandra

    I picked this up after reading a mention on a Mad Men post on Pandagon by a reviewer. It's a great look at the changes in advertising during the 60s. The first half focuses on ads of the 50s while the second half looks at the transition to hip, youth culture oriented ads. I picked this up after reading a mention on a Mad Men post on Pandagon by a reviewer. It's a great look at the changes in advertising during the 60s. The first half focuses on ads of the 50s while the second half looks at the transition to hip, youth culture oriented ads.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    Hip consumerism is still consumerism, and those who drive consumerism know it even if they pretend not to in order to assimilate the counterculture. Those who live creatively (according to the "carnivalesque") either direct the counterculture if they're part of the dominant culture, or cut their own path if they're not. It's very difficult to be and do the latter option today. Hip consumerism is still consumerism, and those who drive consumerism know it even if they pretend not to in order to assimilate the counterculture. Those who live creatively (according to the "carnivalesque") either direct the counterculture if they're part of the dominant culture, or cut their own path if they're not. It's very difficult to be and do the latter option today.

  30. 5 out of 5

    K

    This book has been hugely influential for my research and perspective on the role of advertising in cultural developments. It's a great, easy read and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the back story behind what Mad Men portrayed of the give and take between business and popular culture in the '60s and early '70s. This book has been hugely influential for my research and perspective on the role of advertising in cultural developments. It's a great, easy read and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the back story behind what Mad Men portrayed of the give and take between business and popular culture in the '60s and early '70s.

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