Perhaps it was Watergate-era pessimism seeping in, or maybe just the post-1960s hangover causing all the grumbling. There may be no single reason for the sudden downturn in attitudes toward advertising—but remember that magical "everybody else's tobacco is poisonous, but Lucky Strikes are toasted" boardroom scene set in 1960, or that mega-sexy 1967 ad campaign for the notoriously unreliable Jaguar E-Type? Pitches like those may not fare so well once the public grows skeptical of the marketing kings of Madison Avenue.
Throughout the 1960s, according to Calfee and Ringold, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission had been widely criticized for paying little attention to misleading ads on television and in print. But in 1969, Ralph Nader published his controversial Nader Report on the Federal Trade Commission, a project in which Nader and seven law-student volunteers exposed the general laziness of the FTC in protecting consumers from false advertisements and fraud. Their report condemned suggestive ads, deceptive or false claims in TV commercials and print ads, and the diversion of attention away from unappealing information (such as the unpleasant side effects of a drug, or the health risks of cigarettes). In order to ensure that consumer deception was exposed, disciplined, and fixed, Nader and his team of "Nader's Raiders" called for "alert and extensive monitoring operations with pre-screening by expert engineers, doctors, and professionals."
As a result, "a much-remarked revolution in FTC advertising regulation began in 1970," according to Calfee and Ringold. "Changes included a thorough staff reorganization, new litigation procedures, and large budgetary increases." The FTC started making the rounds in several industries, demanding and inspecting backup materials from marketers that could prove the validity of their advertised claims—so in the world of Mad Men, that likely means no more stunts like that smirking, intentionally vague Relax-a-Cizor pitch after 1970.
Changes in legislation backed the Don Drapers of the 1970s even further into a corner. In the decades prior, the law had required the FTC to prove an advertisement was making false statements to pursue legal action. But after a new advertising substantiation doctrine was instituted in 1972, the FTC was only tasked with proving that the advertiser had failed to prove its claim was reasonably substantiated—in other words, it became easier for the commission to punish marketers for fleecing consumers, and the onus of accountability shifted to the advertisers themselves.
AND ... ANYTHING ELSE? Yup. According to Ad Age, advertising aimed at children was a particularly fervent concern. "TV advertisers were spending millions of dollars annually pitching products to children," the publication explained in 2003. "Empirical research suggested that children younger than eight generally could not distinguish between a commercial and the main program fare. The data suggested this remained true until about sixth grade." (Ads like Michael Ginsberg's policeman-getting-pelted-in-the-face-with-a-snowball idea for Sno Ball, then, would face much tougher scrutiny in the 1970s than they would the decade before.)