'Color Uncle Frank Playful Grey Flannel’: The J. Walter Thompson Colouring Book

24 November 2017

Cultural Studies | History

In the long-gone days of 2015-16, adult colouring books suddenly became nothing less than a phenomenon. The Independent even reported that the craze had led to a 'global pencil shortage'. Imagine my surprise, then, when working on Adam Matthew Digital’s forthcoming J. Walter Thompson: Advertising America, I came across a colouring book for adults, released as long ago as 1974! Produced with the intention of introducing JWT's Atlanta office to potential clients, this playful offering features a series of cartoon illustrations of its staff, accompanied by tongue-in-cheek captions.

Copyright Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.


The book highlights some of the more unique fashions of the 1970s: among those depicted are several aficionados of 'maroon pants and white shoes' - although Floyd, who 'reps the Marine Corps', 'does not have maroon pants or white shoes. Marines are rugged individualists'. Alongside, we see comment on the “long lunch”. Debbie 'covers up for Nick and Buddy while they are out on five hour lunches’.

Copyright Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.


There was, of course, a serious point to all this. Even with a generous helping of satirical humour, the Atlanta Office was on the lookout for new business. In producing a colouring book, it had found a unique way of publicising the company and its staff, repeating its best-known copy, and plugging prestigious accounts.

Copyright Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.


And what better way of showcasing creative talent than this?

J. Walter Thompson: Advertising America is publishing in Spring 2018. For more information, including free trial access and price enquiries, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

About the Author

Matt Brand

I joined Adam Matthew Digital in the autumn of 2016 as an Editorial Assistant. My main academic interests are British politics and diplomacy during the mid-nineteenth century, particularly in relation to refugees and asylum.

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