Justin Ricklefs


The Carousel Keeps Going Around

The last month has been an interesting one for our family. One that has been so full that my writing sat on the shelf for a bit.

Left a job, had an awesome vacation with Brooke and our kids and then started a new, old job.


I’ve been thinking a lot about carousels this last month.  Weird maybe, but bear with me.

This word has been rattling around in my mind because on the second day of my new gig, an outside consultant showed me this video from the show Mad Men.  It’s three minutes, go watch it before you read any further.

The Eastman Kodak guys are making the NYC ad agency rounds trying to find the right firm to market their non-sexy but super-practical slideshow device they’ve dubbed, “The Wheel”.

As a boy, I remember my dad, a terrific photographer, using this wheel device.  At family picnics, church basements, wherever he could show off his work and tell his stories.

That sound, the one where the slide advances, is so unique. When I heard it in the video, it took me instantly back to those times watching my dad advance the slide as he advanced his story-telling.

Back to the Mad Men clip, Don Draper masterfully weaves depth, emotion and meaning into their pitch for the Eastman Kodak business.  Maybe it was manipulative and twisted. Or maybe “The Wheel” captured something much deeper in Don’s heart, striking a chord that he may not have even known existed.

As Don advances through the wheel, showing pictures of his family, his kids, the things way beyond the walls of his ad agency kingdom, he speaks of nostalgia. From an advertising perspective, he says that the way to a connection with potential buyers of your product is through nostalgia.

He describes it as the pain of an old wound.  A time machine that goes backwards, forwards. One that takes us to a place where we ache to go again.

Any firm in NYC could have marketed the wheel. With its features, its ease, its display.  Talk about the price, guarantee it will work, throw some slick graphic on the screen. The wheel would have sold just fine, but probably not great.

Instead of the typical route the rest of the agencies went, Dom and his team went for the jugular. For the heart.

Through scotch and cigarette smoke, Don doesn’t wade, rather he jumps, right into the deep flowing waters of the heart.

“It’s not called the wheel, it’s called the carousel,” he says. He flipped the entire thing on its head, created a brand new paradigm.

The first weekend of my new gig, the whole staff was invited to Worlds of Fun. We had a great lunch, talked to colleagues and their families, and tore up the park with over 13,000 steps according to our fitness device. We waited out a couple rain delays, ate some unhealthy food and called it a day with one last ride.


The Grand Carousel.

Similar to the dude in the video that got up before the end of the scratchy video, because his emotions overtook him, I about jumped off the carousel.

Partly because those things make adults nauseous. But partly because the carousel theme hit pretty close to home that day.


It’s funny, when we look back at the Kodak Carousel photos of our day, nostalgia creeps up to the top of the throat pretty quickly.

Remember that time when? Life was so simple then. Can you believe they’re so big? We’ve grown so much. Look how sweet and innocent. Those were the good ole’ days.

True? Partially, sure. Meaningful? You bet.

Like Don described, the carousel lets us travel the way a child travels. Round and around. Back home again. To a place we know we are loved.

When I stepped off the carousel that afternoon, I was quick to grab Brooke’s hand. An attempt at slowing the carousel of life down, just a bit. Things felt right for that moment, the ride seemed to be making sense for once.

Maybe it was overly nostalgic. But maybe it was the correct dose of it.

After all, Don says it’s delicate but potent.

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