Thursday, May 30, 2019

Garrett Price: Two Faces Are Better Than One

At this point we can make a few generalizations about the cartoons used by advertising agency Young & Rubicam in its decades-long print campaign to promote its services to the industry. Although Y & R made use of many of the very best cartoonists in the business, that did not necessarily result in many of the very best cartoons. Instead the cartoons often slavishly served the advertising copy, which was often ponderous and strained.

"I wish that fellow were on our board[.]"
Garrett Price
Young & Rubicam advertisement

A case in point is Garrett Price's 1933 cartoon featuring a corporate gentleman fitted out with derby, monocle, and walking stick. He stands in a museum or gallery admiring a bust of the Roman god Janus and wishing the two-faced god could serve on his board. For those not steeped in the beliefs of the ancient world, Price has helpfully labeled the base Janus: Roman god of all beginnings. That at least is clear, but the awkward copy struggles to explain why this god's services might be of value: "The planning of selling and advertising needs the Janus-like ability to see in two directions at once
—backward for mistakes  —forward for opportunities."

That's certainly not the most eloquent of arguments. The few cartoonists we've seen contribute to Y & R's campaign over the years—Price, Robert Day, William Steig, H. T. Webster—have not been used to their best advantage.

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