The Milkman was a Mad Man

By Jackie Mathys  |  March 12, 2020

The Milkman

Until recently, I thought branded content was a new thing. Like “sponsored content,” the name hasn’t been around that long, but the concept has actually been around since… no idea. I’m not a real journalist. I just happened to discover some delightful examples of vintage branded content recently and thought I’d share.

If you’ve read any of my previous Real Original Contents, you know I’m a sucker for old-timey business writing, where the author’s ideas hold up but his word choices definitely do not. And by his, I mean it’s always a his. Women weren’t writing a lot of business articles back then. Too busy typing their bosses’ ones.

Meet the Milkman

“The Milkman” was a daily column that ran in The Corpus Christi Times from 1935 well into the ’60s. To me, these bite-size gems are branded content at its best. Thinly veiled as lighthearted local news, but always with a plug for Knolle All-Jersey dairy products crammed in.

Pot Plant

That’s some beautifully branded content right there

While today’s sponsored-content writers work hard at disguising the fact that they’re writing ads, this guy didn’t even try. He plugged those milk products loudly and proudly, obviously knowing which side his bread was buttered on (with fresh Knolle All-Dairy butter!).

Aside from the “it was another time” pot plant suggestion, I find the tongue-in-cheekiness of The Milkman downright adorable. The easy, breezy style reads like the farmer himself wrote it. But make no mistake! These columns are the work of a skilled advertising copywriter. A real Mad Man from the ’60s! How do I know?

For one thing, I noticed all of the ads in the Corpus Christi Caller Times back then sounded the same. Same style. Same voice. Same writer. I mean, look at this Lichtenstein’s ad:Branded Content

That’s no hack, that’s Harold

To be 100% sure, and because I didn’t want to do my laundry, I jumped down the rabbit hole that is the Corpus Christi Caller Times digital archives, and there he was: Harold Pettus, the man behind the Milkman.

Harold Pettus Advertising

The Don Draper of Corpus Christi?

More like the Peggy. Don didn’t actually do any real work. Pettus, on the other hand, was apparently a copywriting machine. See that * at the bottom of his ad?

Either “truth in advertising” wasn’t a law yet, or that man was prolific. Even more impressive is that his humble establishment is still in business, 80 years and two gens later.

And it all started with a little column that no doubt made its readers love Knolle All Jersey and buy more milkā€”even the lactose intolerant! The columns were that good. Here’s another one you’ll love…

vintage branded content


Even if you’re too young to know what a “love in” was, surely you were swept up in the sentiment just now. And surely you smiled at the sight of “lovable milk.” If not, you’re a cold soul, my friend. Cold as Knolle’s Fresh Peach Ice Cream.

Click Harold’s face!

Mad Man
Click my pic to read about my naps.