Tag Archives: 1960s

‘We Try Harder’ and Other Famous Ad Campaigns by Paula Green

Post contributed by Cameron Byerly, a rising junior at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland.  He helped process the Paula Green papers through St. John’s Hodson Internship Program during Summer 2017.

Photograph of Paula Green from the Paula Green papers at the Rubenstein Library.

It’s not the size of the budget
It’s the ferocity of the idea
–Paula GRRRRReen

Paula Green’s papers amounted to nearly 100 boxes of print documents, photographs and audiovisual materials, which is intimidating for a first archival processing project.

My relief was immediate when I discovered these boxes contained dozens of awards, fascinating drafts and edits to ads, pleasant correspondence, articles explaining an honest and steadfast worldview, and above all, a character who I came to deeply respect the voice and intents of through a long and successful career.

Union Label song created by Paula Green and Malcolm Dodds in 1975 for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

The central theme I would use to describe Paula Green’s work is ‘cause-driven’. Paula’s speeches and correspondence make it clear she chose clients she personally believed in, including the local jobs offered by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), and the work she did to fight breast cancer with the U.S. government’s Public Health Service and the American Cancer Society. Perhaps her largest success was her part in creating the “Look for the Union Label” song for the ILGWU in the 70’s. The song’s importance became more tangible to me when reading President Jimmy Carter’s quote “Sometimes I have a hard time deciding which I like best, ‘Hail to the Chief’ or ‘Look for the Union Label,’” and the subsequent parodies from newspaper comics, South Park and Saturday Night Live. The song represented an enormous collective effort of the American fight for local jobs. As I pieced together Paula’s insistence on visiting local factories, employing real workers for TV spots, and saying “please buy from us” rather than “don’t buy from foreigners,” I realized that she applied her own moral standard to the work she believed in.

Paula Green created the now famous “We Try Harder” campaign for Avis in 1962.

The second notable theme in Paula Green’s work is intelligence. Her early success at Doyle Dane Bernbach with the ‘We’re No. 2’ advertising campaign for Avis car rental allowed her the economic power to create her own advertising agency in 1975, and demonstrated her intelligence in engaging with the audience. I consider how well her methods would work in today’s more image-driven and crowded advertising landscape. Records of her work include hundreds of edits of reasoned arguments and recipes used to include in her marketing of food products. She often argued against a more deceptive world of associating lifestyles with products, and instead cleanly focused on the merits of her products. Her copywriting involved well-written sentences to back up her buzz-words and intelligent methodology in expressing her ideas.  Continue reading ‘We Try Harder’ and Other Famous Ad Campaigns by Paula Green

Hot Off the Democratic Party Press

DemoDigestManandHydrantThe typewriters and linotype machines were furiously clacking away… Cigarette smoke turned the air blue…  The year was 1960, Nixon and Kennedy were running for President, and the cartoonists, layout staff, copy editors, and office runners of the Democratic Digest were working hard to beat a deadline and push out the next issue of irreverent, energetic political opinion, news, and satire.

You can examine the content being prepared for the 1960 campaign issue as well as many other issues from 1955-1961 in a Rubenstein Library collection, the Democratic Digest Records. The Washington, D.C. publication, headed by Sam Brightman, was the official monthly of the Democratic Party, and the 28 boxes of its records, acquired by the library in 1961, are filled with drafts of editorial columns, political cartoons and other original artwork, and reprinted articles and opinion pieces from pro-Democratic U.S. newspapers across the country.


DemoDigestGraveyardThe correspondence files house provocative and eloquent letters sent in from readers, critics, and Democratic Senators and Governors, addressing the many turbulent political issues of the day: McCarthyism, scandals and corruption, civil rights, labor issues, farm subsidies, the U.S. economy, nuclear weapons, and of course, elections.  You’ll hear voices from ordinary citizens facing hard times: “Now that we have the D.D. [Democratic Digest],” writes one reader from Willifor, Arkansas in 1957, “I just don’t see how we could or ever did do without it. My work keeps me on the move and depend on getting it on the new-stands and believe under this new plan it will be easire [sic] done. While I have a wife and 7 children and not year round work, I will plan to get a Sub [subscription] or two for someone that will do something about it. They may do a good deed too.”

DemoDigest-letter1The materials in this collection cover a time of intense change and fragmentation in American society. Whether it’s a letter from a labor leader, cartoons featuring donkeys and elephants, or articles about big business being cozy with the government, the Democratic Digest files tell a fascinating tale of American politics and society.

DemoDigestcoverPost contributed by Paula Jeannet Mangiafico, Visual Materials Processing Archivist.