Exhibition Reveals Madison Ave.’s ‘Real Men and Women’

NEW YORK Who can forget some of America’s best-loved slogans like “I want my MTV” and “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands”? But, who actually remembers the creative minds behind them?

“The Real Men and Women of Madison Avenue and Their Impact on American Culture,” which opened last night at the New York Public Library, aims to shed light on the advertising practitioners responsible for some of the country’s best-known pieces of Americana.

The exhibition spans 80 years of iconic images and slogans, looking at the lives and the work of the copywriters, art directors and creative directors who have successfully helped shape American consumption and culture. The show is co-curated by Mary Warlick, CEO of The One Club.

Some of the material, which includes more than 200 advertisements, posters, books, TV commercials, and video and audio interviews, calls attention to the colorful lives some of these individuals led before making their mark in advertising. For example, David Ogilvy was a former apprentice chef, door-to-door salesman, farmer and British intelligence officer.

Women figure prominently in the exhibition, showing how they rose to the top of their field by selling household products to other women. One such figure is Bernice “Fitz” Fitz-Gibbon, who is referred to as the woman behind “creating an empire” with copy such as “It’s smart to be thrifty” for Macy’s.

“The Real Men and Women of Madison Avenue and Their Impact on American Culture” runs through Sept. 26.