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PI's 45th ANNIVERSARY -- The Lighter Side

June 2003

WORTH A LOOK: A short story in the October 1968 edition—results from a poll conducted by the Administrative Management Society—found that 52 percent of its members approved of mini skirts in the workplace. One exec felt that the mini can "add new interest to the daily grind." Seventy-five percent frowned on boots and excessive makeup, but about two-thirds gave the thumbs up to colored, textured or fishnet pantyhose.

On the male side, only five percent of companies approved long hair, "a la Beatles." Another 84 percent banned beards, while 74 percent felt the old shirt and tie to be more appropriate than the turtleneck shirt. Balderdash! to sideburns, according to 54 percent. Noted one respondent, "This is a business office, not a psychedelic refuge for barbarians." When subtle and not-so-subtle attempts at getting employees to conform to acceptable grooming standards fail, ". . .we fire 'em," said a respondent.

MAN'S WORLD?: The commercial printing industry was nothing if not a male-dominated world in the 1960s and 1970s. To what degree can be answered with a sampling of the period's more raunchy advertising tactics. Just what were they thinking?

* The Frederick H. Levey Co. and its lithographic plate division declared that the "hunt for rugged, long-run plates" ended with the Levey Lionx presensitized bimetal offset plates. The ad featured a lion subdued at spearpoint by a blonde female warrior clad in just a leopard print bikini.

* An ad for the Dico Speedee Sleeve for water rollers showed a presumably nude woman covered by a rather large sleeve. "Introducing the 15 second put-on," the ad proclaimed. Another Dico ad featured a nude woman, backside to the camera, jamming herself into a girdle, with a good portion of her womanhood sticking out of the top of the bottom. Such was the pitch for water dampening cover material with two-way stretch.

* Fotorite, a division of Agfa-Gevaert, portrayed a nude woman sitting on a stool, her rear facing the camera. Since the photo is of the artistic variety, we'll let them off lightly.

* A caricature of a nude, well-endowed woman holding a sign that barely covered her buxom state screamed out "Titillating Pink!" Colorite of Kansas City, MO, was the culprit of this bastion of bad taste.

IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD MAGAZINE WORLD: Yes, it is true, a PI reporter trekked to Madison Avenue in New York City to speak with Bill Gaines, publisher of Mad magazine, during the straight-laced 1960s (from the business world perspective, at least).

Writer Marjory Weiner told the tale of Gaines, who inherited Educational Comics from his father, Max, who died in an accident. The elder Gaines had been publishing more sedate offerings, such as "Picture Stories from the Bible," and "Tiny Tot Comics," but his son found a larger audience with tales of crime, horror, war and science fiction.

But publishers bore the brunt of the criticism surrounding juvenile delinquency in the mid-'50s, with witch hunts very much in style, and blame for misguided youth was heaped upon such trashy tales. With a so-called ban agreed upon by publishers in general, all Gaines had left was a 10 cent humor comic called Mad. In 1955, it became Gaines' lone project.

By the mid-'60s, the book had a circulation of 1.75 million, at 25 cents a pop. That was important, as it did not accept advertising. All revenues were generated by subscription and newsstand sales, along with sales of Mad paperbacks and pictures, including the infamous Alfred E. Newman.

While Mad has been long known for not pulling punches, neither did the PI writer. Weiner described Gaines as a "fat, leisurely dressed man of 45." Obviously, sensitivity was not a high priority then.

WAGING PURITANICAL WAR: PI featured a seven-part series titled, "Sex, Morals and Pornography in the Printing Business." Larry Flynt and Hustler magazine had yet to come along and challenge the establishment and open the doors for the dissemination of potentially objectionable printed material. The subhead summed it up aptly, stating, "Printers must be aware of rapidly changing values in a society where virtually anything can be printed."

The cycle is coming around again, in electronic form, as free access to objectionable material for minors is raising ethical, moral and free speech questions.

COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT DEPT.: Or how I ripped off Charles Schultz and lived to tell about it. The classified section of PI routinely featured knockoffs of nationally syndicated comic strips under reworked names, such as "Printnuts," with the lead character named Charlie Blow. We won't even talk about "Bagwood Bumstead, the Saga of a Printing Salesman." More original single-panel works, penned by Mel Millar, added a certain charm to the books.

SOUND FAMILIAR?: One 1968 piece featured five keys for "How the Small Printer Can Live Among the Giants." The advice:

1. Don't talk about your service, talk about your prospect's problems.

2. Be creative; show your prospect a new way of doing something and doing it better.

3. Persistence and people patronage; never give up, regardless of the discouragement. If you can't see "Mr. Big," then acquaint yourself with all the "smalls." In time, the steps on the ladder are climbed and the office boy can be a responsible position.

4. Be flexible; a dehumanized approach by big business competition is vulnerable to attack. Be sympathetic to the needs of your customers and make a point of selling flexibility.

5. Sell ideas; product or service sales will follow.

HE WAS RIGHT: Gene Sanger, president of Kwik Kopy, knew back then what would take 15 to 20 more years for everyone to learn: smoking is bad for your health. Sanger printed macabre anti-smoking posters and self-adhesive stamps that he gave away to point out "the terrible things cigarettes have done to friends and business associates." The slogan was "Caution: Cigarette Smoking May Be Dangerous to your Health."

TOO UNWIELDY: That was the major beef regarding DRUPA 72. Our parent, North American Publishing Co., sent four editors and two publishers to that year's show, and complained that they saw but a fraction of the overall exhibition. One editor guessed it would take 20 break-less nine-hour days to spend 10 minutes at each DRUPA stand. Like a fine buffet, DRUPA is to be sampled, not swallowed whole.

DOUBT IT CAN BE TOPPED: Not all advertisers were using naked or scantily-clad women to pitch their wares. Douthitt used a cartoon superhero, "The Man from Douthitt," to promote the company's platemaking superiority. The superhero had a cape and a capital D on the front of his outfit, a la Superman. But the most amazing characteristic is his lack of a neck. Goofy perhaps, but fun and a change of pace from the burlesque show.

WE'RE NO ANGELS: If advertising has taught us one thing, it is that sex sells. So the Philip A. Hunt Chemical Corp. tapped the popularity of a certain heavenly detective trio to sell its chemical goods. The Hunt Super Squad bore a slight resemblance to Sabrina Duncan, Kelly Garrett and Jill Monroe, a.k.a. Charlie's Angels.

SPEAKING OF ADS: One insert Mead Paper used to run featured "The Adventures of Fogarty the Printshop Manager." The ad's star was actor Jonathan Winters, yet another big name from a consumables manufacturer. Bob Gans had Jayne Mansfield pitching his Gans Ink product. No word on whether singer Shakira will pose for Flint Ink print ads.

HARD TO KILL: The following headline from 1978 elicited a chuckle, as a similar one had ran earlier this year: "New Moves Could Gut GPO, Curb Commercial Purchases." Not even a stake through the heart. . .

ALL THE NEWS: A rare interview with CNN cable TV news founder Ted Turner proved that people can be both prescient and full of crap at the same time. In the early 1980s, Turner believed that newspapers would be out of business within 10 years, a victim of the inefficiencies of distribution and associated costs, along with competition from emerging technologies. Writer Alan Tepper asked whether a newspaper's portability would be a factor in its continued strength.

Turner replied that only entities such as the New York Times would survive, and that primarily commuters would still buy a newspaper. But the follow-up question and answer, in hindsight, indicated that Ted knew a little something about the direction of technology.

PI: What about the businessman who wants to pick up a newspaper and select what he wants to read and when he wants to read it?

TURNER: He will be able to get all the information he wants without the newspaper. He will have it available either in his home or in the office and he won't have to wade through lots of stuff he doesn't want to see. (Obviously, Turner couldn't predict the coming of e-mail and a new definition for spam.) For instance, every newspaper carries every stock in the country. Most people have only one stock and they only want to look at that one stock every day. You are going to be able to punch up that one stock on a terminal. You will also be able to get more information on the company that you are interested in.

What Turner didn't bank on was the complementary existence of newspapers and this new technology, or the enduring strength of the paper.

EVOLUTIONARY MANAGEMENT: Current Editor-in-Chief Mark Michelson wrote a 1993 editorial on the progressive print management of the late Harry V. Quadracci, who built his commercial printing plant, Quad/Graphics, from the ground floor to one of the largest and most respected operations in the United States. On-site child care (with a state-certified kindergarten) and health care facilities for employees, along with a commitment to on-going staff training and promoting a fun work environment, helped Quad land on The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America list several times.

Quadracci passed away in 2002, but his philosophy and spirit lives on within Quad/Graphics.


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