07/23/2010 03:13 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Mad Ads: George Lois on Partial Nudity, $5 Snake Oil, and a Curious Smoking Cure

Advertising legend looks back on an ad era madder than the '60s!

By Abby Tannenbaum
The New York Public Library

As the fourth season of AMC's Mad Men debuts this weekend, viewers will again look back more than 40 years to see what happens at the fictional Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

All of those nostalgic ads for Popsicles and Clearasil made us wonder what advertising looked like even longer ago--when print media reigned supreme.

Fortunately, The New York Public Library owns hundreds of advertising posters from the early 1900s. So we asked real-life ad man George Lois to provide a running commentary on some of the most intriguing ones. The legendary Lois ran his own agency in the 1960s, producing iconic ads for Xerox, Robert Kennedy, and Braniff. He also designed dozens of covers for Esquire magazine that have been installed in the permanent collections of MoMA, and, a few decades later, created the "I Want My MTV" campaign.


See More Turn of the Century Posters and Turn of the Century Ads in NYPL's Digital Gallery

Learn more about the history of advertising in America [PDF]

Read about NYPL's 2008 exhibition Real Men and Women of Madison Avenue: Their Impact on American Culture