The Art of the Sell — Nichols and May for GE Refrigerators

These posts celebrate the movie trailers, movie posters, commercials, print ads, and other promotional material that stand as their own works of art. 

It was hardly the dawn of broadcast television in 1958, but the medium was still finding its legs in so many ways. In particular, the commercials that provided necessary financial support to entertainment programming (TV was free and delivered over the airwaves, kids) could be delightfully offbeat in a far more understated way that now, when it’s practically a requirement to jar the viewer out of their fast-forwarding. Fiercely creative advertisements still exist, of course, but there’s something distinctly charming about the early, freewheeling days, when an ad agency might simply turn over a major campaign to bright, burgeoning comic voices and simply ask them to do their thing.

Young & Rubicam forged a quick partnership with Mike Nichols and Elaine May. In 1958, the duo of Nichols and May hadn’t yet embarked on their famed Broadway run. Their first comedy album, Improvisations to Music, arrived at the end of the year. Legends later, they were just kids, murmuring out skillfully acted, character-driven comedy sketches. Giving them a couple minutes of television time to peddle General Electric refrigerators, especially in a precisely performed spoof that’s part classic Hollywood melodrama and part Noel Coward comedy of manners may not be the height of audaciousness but it’s daring enough to look exceedingly special all these years later.

The ad is grand and surprising, And it does its basic job admirably. I now sorta want a major appliance with shelves that swing out for easy access.

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