The Mad Marketing of Jack Davis’s Commercials [Video]
If you’re a comic book reader, you’re probably most familiar with the legendary Jack Davis from his work as the artist of the classic EC horror titles of the ’50s and his status as one of the founding creators of MAD Magazine. What you might not know, however, is that there was a time when he was one of the highest-paid illustrators in the world, thanks to his work in advertising.
His career as a commercial illustrator hit its height in the ’60s, and if you’ve never seen the ads he produced for products like Gilette razors, sleeping pills and various boozes — not to be used in combination with each other — I can assure you that they’re exactly as weird as you want them to be. To prove it, we’ve got a mix of classic Jack Davis commercials after the cut, and trust me: you’re going to want to watch it.
One of the most interesting things about this is that they went with Davis’s art for a cereal commercial starring comedienne Ruth Buzzi, which is a testament to how highly regarded Davis was in the world of advertising. Someone thought it would be better — or at least faster and easier to produce — to have Davis do it rather than bringing Buzzi in and filming it live.
As for the rest of the ads, they are a delight. I’m particularly fond of the first one for Utica Club Beer and the assertion that it’ll mellow you out unless you’re a cartoon mobster. That had to have reigned as the best beer commercial until the Ramones did three singles for Steel Reserve.
The best one by far, however, has to be the truly insane ad for Cask Mountain Wine. I have no idea why someone decided that the best way to sell this stuff was to assure customers that hillbillies had sex in the stuff you’re drinking, but Davis pulls it off. In fact, with his expressive, friendly cartooning and hilarious exaggerations, he makes the idea of drinking something that was mixed with hillbilly love leavings downright appealing.
Well, no, he doesn’t. It’s still the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard. But he comes close, and when you’re working with that much of a handicap, that’s gotta count for something.
Incidentally, Cask Mountain Wine doesn’t seem to be around anymore, but Davis certainly is, and he’s still one of the greats.