Miss Mad Men? Get your ad-movie fix here 11 advertising movies reviewed.

Ahhh, late November, it's cold and you are likely to catch one too (unless you're in Australia you lucky dog). Mad Men season is over, and you're stuck under a pile of down comforters and an even larger pile of used kleenex. There's nothing but infomercials on TV. You miss work and are officially in hell. Fret not dear adgrunt, there are movies about advertising. Or, at least movies where the main characters work in advertising. It's nothing like the real deal, of course, but that doesn't mean it can't be amusing when you're running a fever and you're high off codeine and Vicks vapors. Below is a little list of 10, no, 11 adfilms for you or your sickly adgrunt pal.

How to Get Ahead In Advertising What is the price of advertising lies? A gigantic talking boil on your shoulder. No, wait, it gets worse, a gigantic talking boil that looks like a head and grows a moustache. This movie will leave you wondering how much codeine the writers chomped before doing this movie. Yes, it's funny. Worth it, with or without the drugs. Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House There are plenty of reasons you need to see this film even if it is more about the house and less about the ad biz. #1 Cary Grant. #2 Cary Grant trying to come up with slogans for WHAM Ham. #3 There are scenes where Muriel (Myrna Loy) spends a silly amount of time talking about the colours she wants in each room that have actually been used, un-edited as real commercials for paint in the mid-nineties (UK), see if you can spot them. Classic. Boomerang I'd actually give this one a miss if it wasn't for Grace Jones doing a hilarious parody of Grace Jones, and Halle Berry plays the not so hot chick. WTF? Plus the fashion sucks, in a hilarious "people wore that!?" kind of way that only a decade can do to it. Yikes the nineties were fugly!! +++ extra drugs needed. What women want There is a "real" Nike ad in this movie written by creatives at w+k. Fast forward to that, say "meh" and toss the disc out the window as the rest of the film isn't worth it unless you're already comatosed by your painkillers. Putney Swope I haven't seen this but must get it - "Dark satire in which the token black man on the executive board of an advertising firm is accidentally put in charge. Renaming the business "Truth and Soul, Inc.", he replaces the tight regime of monied white ad men with his militant brothers." That sounds hysterical! Even more reason to get it, my pal Stacy said "I remember reading that Downey was so dissatisfied with the lead character's voice that he decided to dub all the actor's lines with his own (Downey's) voice. So here's this white guy doing a really, um, unconvincing african american voice, in a movie about truth and integrity. Either tragically ironic or brilliantly ironic, depending on your metalevel." Crazy People Reason to watch: They start an advertising agency in an insane asylum. The nutters write terribly truthful headlines like: "Volvo. They're boxy, but safe.", which seems to be an intentional homage to VW "It's ugly but it gets you there". Other memorable lines: "Forget Paris. Come to Greece. We're nicer" and there's a great commercial in it which ends with: "Sony - because Caucasians are just too damn tall". You'll need many more drugs to survive the Darryl Hannah/Dudley Moore love interest scenes though. *gag* Advertising Rules! Also known as: Viktor Vogel - Commercial Man Take a dab of Trainspotting, rub it together with that crazy talking-boil-head movie and you have yourself this German ad flick where most of the comedy has been done in countless Hollywood flicks before. Victor the ad geek digs Rosa, the rich girl who wants to be an artist despite what her parents think, and Victor wants to get a great job in advertising. His boss hates him until the day he interrupts some car meeting rambling on about irony and the client likes him. Victor steals Rosa's idea, passes it off as his own and all the complications begin only to get worse through the film and sureally solved in the last five minutes of the film. Crazy car chases and chainsaws aside - the ad agency parts are actually a lot like real ad agencies. +only one extra codeine needed. Lover come back Doris Day and Rock Hudson work in the beautiful people, beautiful environment, 3-Martini lunches and no actual work agency that we've all wanted to join. Carol Templeton (Doris Day) wants to get Jerry Webster (Rock Hudson) thrown out of the business for his martini and broads-bribing ways of securing accounts. Jerry sneakily bribes the girl who'd testify against him, by starring her in a TV commercial for a product named VIP that he's just made up - but these commercials are actually aired leaving Jerry no choice but to make the product with the help of Doctor Linus Tyler. Carol isn't just waiting for her clients to walk in, so she goes to see the Doctor to try and steal the account, instead she meets Jerry (whom she never actually met before) and he takes advantage of the situation and tries to win her. Classic complications. + more Vicks VapoRub needed to get the extra Vaseline® lens vision of the silky Martini lunch offices these people work in. The Arrangement The Son of a Greek merchant turned advertising sell-out account exec superstar, Eddie Anderson (Kirk Douglas) is having an office affair with Gwen (Faye Dunaway) who interrupts one of his client meetings to scream at him, "the screwing I'm getting is not worth the screwing I'm getting." and that line right there makes the whole film worth it. The movie is more about a man's struggle against himself rather than advertising but there is still three reasons to see it: Faye Dunaway, Faye Dunaway, and Faye Dunaway - dammit she is hot, and this might just be her best performance ever, so intense and raw. Drugs optional. North by Northwest It's Hitchcock and thus a thriller that only visits Madison Ave for background scenery. See it because Cary Grant says: "But I'm an advertising man, not a red herring!" The Hucksters Clark Gable plays a slick liar Victor Norman, who plays hard to get in order to get the job in advertising that he wants. At the end he realizes that he has become a sell-out, and quits. The best part is when the despotic soap magnate Sidney Greenstreet spits on the table to make a point. Trivia:

The novel upon which this film is based was itself inspired by a real-life exposé in "The Saturday Evening Post". The four-part article, entitled "The Star Spangled Octopus," was a look at how the talent and promotional agency MCA had managed to monopolize most areas of popular entertainment by the mid-1940s. In the novel, the character of Dave Lash is based directly on MCA founder and president Jules C. Stein and his right-hand-man is based on Lew Wasserman. The movie version retains these elements of the book's form but is otherwise fairly sanitized. The one exception: the exterior of the fictional agency Talent Ltd. is shown once during the movie -- and the building in the shot is unmistakably MCA's Beverly Hills headquarters.

Drugs optional, even if this film is 50 years old the topic of getting ahead, by non-ethical means or by compromising your own morals never gets old.

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Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
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wisdumb's picture

Shame on you... you forgot Lost in America. Albert Brooks played an ad man in that and there is some great ad agency stuff in the movie. He also played an ad man in Defending Your Life. 


Dabitch's picture

You're right, while I have heard about an ad-connection in that one, I haven't seen it and the imdb reads:

David and Linda Howard are successful yuppies from LA. When he gets a job disappointment, David convinces Linda that they should quit their jobs, liquidate their assets, and emulate the movie Easy Rider, spending the rest of their lives travelling around America...in a Winnebago!

Which makes it sound like there's very little advertising going on. But hey, more for me to see now that I'm hiding under down covers sneezing my head off - keep 'em coming folks.

There's aso a terrible one with Rachel, uhm, Jennifer Aniston, called Picture Perfect where the entire ad agency - Mercer Advertising - seems to consist of copywriters who have their own offices and everyone collects in one giant meeting to brainstorm together for clients. I figured if you guys were sick you suffered enough....

Allan1's picture

The plot for Crazy People has Dudley Moore's ad creative [Emory Leeson] going crazy and being sent to an asylum.

While he's in there, someone back at his office sends out his last campaign (the Volvo one) - the one that was the reason he was sent to the nuthouse in the first place - and it's a massive hit!

He then enlists the other members of the asylum to write all new ad campaigns (because his agency wanted more).

Kathy: Who here wants to be an advertising executive?
[several hands go up]
Emory Leeson: Who here wants to be a fire truck?
[everyone raises their hands, with several standing and commenting things like "Ooh, I do!" and "Me! Pick me!"]

Total honesty in advertising is the theme.

A lot more funny lines -
"Jaguar - for men who want want hand jobs"

"You may think phone service stinks since deregulation, but don't mess with us, because we're all you've got. In fact, if we fold, you'll have no damn phones. AT&T - we're tired of taking your crap!"

"Porsche. It's a little too small to get laid IN it, but you get laid the minute you get out of it!"

"Metamucil: We help you go to the toilet so you won't get cancer and die"

"Remember, no matter where you go... There you are." (Buckaroo Banzai).

caffeinegoddess's picture

Thanks for the summary - one of my favorite movies. :D

tod.brody's picture

Ok, I immediately thought of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? with Tony Randall and Jane Mansfield.  The imdb plot outline reads:

In this spoof of the TV advertising industry, Rockwell Hunter is the low man on the totem pole at the advertising company where he works. That is, until he finds the perfect spokes model for Stay-Put lipstick, the famous actress with the oh-so-kissable lips, Rita Marlowe. Unfortunately, in exchange, Rock has to act publicly as Rita's "Loverdoll", and Rock's fiancée Jenny isn't too happy about it either.

Djamshut's picture

In the year 2000 alone, Mel Gibson portrayed a colonial-times rebel in "The Patriot," arrogant poultry in "Chicken Run," and now a hotshot chauvinist in Nancy Meyers' new romantic comedy "What Women Want." Mel Gibson has slick, suave charm and electric charisma in the role of a self-confident advertising executive. All of his seemingly natural talents combine to create a funny, entertaining character named Nick Marshall. The adorable Helen Hunt has the same amiable traits as her irresistible co-star as she lights up the screen with a gentle personality and glowing elegance. With a respectable supporting cast, including Marisa Tommei, Alan Alda, Lauren Holly, and Bette Midler, it is hard to imagine how "What Women Want" could have failed to entertain audiences.

Nick Marshal obviously does not know what women want. He was raised as a testosterone-based bachelor, with the idea that he is the world's gift to all females. As a rich executive on the verge of a big promotion from his boss, Dan Wanamaker (Alan Alda), he is not pleased when a young, ambitious woman named Darcy Maguire (Helen Hunt) gets the position instead of him. To make matters worse for Nick, his ex-wife (Lauren Holly) has just remarried, leaving him their somewhat rebellious fifteen year old daughter for two weeks, and his attempts to bed a coffee shop employee named Lola (Marisa Tomei) are continuing to fail.

Dabitch's picture