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The New Mexican's Weekly Magazine of Arts, Entertainment & Culture Monday, July 28, 2014

Where there's smoke: A play by Ron Bloomberg examines '60s advertising

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Posted: Friday, March 7, 2014 5:00 am | Updated: 8:38 pm, Thu Mar 13, 2014.

The dramatic setup may sound familiar: a young woman intent on breaking into the “boys club” world of 1960s advertising does what she has to do in order to realize her goal, even if she sometimes has to hold her nose doing it. Or maybe she’s so intent on her goal that it doesn’t occur to her that she ought to be holding her nose, and she may overlook how the talent that serves her aspirations may also be doing harm in the larger world. From this seed of an idea grew The Queen of Madison Avenue, a new play that will be presented in a staged reading on Thursday, March 13, as part of the Under Construction: New Works in Progress series at the Lensic Performing Arts Center. “Oh, I can hardly tell you,” said Ron Bloomberg, the work’s playwright, who has been a Santa Fean since 2004. “When Mad Men first came on, I literally threw my script at the TV, I was so upset. I thought I had this area all to myself. But I realize now that the whole Mad Men phenomenon will actually spark interest in my play.”

For Bloomberg, Madison Avenue in the 1960s represents familiar territory. Although he has always been active in the world of words, he veered for practical reasons into the field of advertising. “I always wanted to be a comedy writer,” he reported, “but I was a bit of a dilettante, and I didn’t actually get around to writing things down. When I finally did, I got a script into the hands of someone at the William Morris Agency, and they placed it — but on a TV show that got canceled before my script got used. It was the guy at William Morris who suggested I get into advertising, and I did.” Bloomberg worked as a copywriter and creative director, and after a while he opened his own small agency in Philadelphia, a firm he described as a “creative boutique.” It was a golden age that gave rise to still-remembered campaigns like the “Think Small” advertisements for Volkswagen, which began running in 1959; “You Don’t Have to be Jewish to Love Levy’s Real Jewish Rye,” which ran from 1961 through the 1970s; and “We Try Harder,” which Avis used for 50 years beginning in 1962. Bloomberg cited these as among his personal favorites, and he noted that they all came out of the Doyle Dane Bernbach agency, the pacesetter at the time.

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