Is (Was) Advertising Cool? Yes, Said Mad Men

Mad Men – RIP.

mad-men-cast-interview-grieving-the-end-ftrWe are about to see the last episodes of Mad Men. What a ride – especially for advertising folks.

The very last days of the show and its era synced with the first days of my advertising career so I got to work with people like Don, Peggy, and Roger.

Stay with me on this one. Yes, it will sound a bit all-about-me. But, there is a point at the end.

I joined, Dancer Fitgerald Sample (DFS), the largest agency in New York, as an AAE on the General Mills account in 1980. So, just for the hell of it… what was that period like for for an ad guy newbie?:

  • I felt like a superstar. I got to work at New York’s largest ad agency. In those days, advertising had today’s Internet startup vibes.
  • It  was a really cool way to earn a living. Imagine the alternatives.
  • I worked with really, really smart and talented people.
  • My bosses were named: Sheffield Halsey, Michael Jeary, Robert L. Ficks III, Marion D. (Skip) Sims and E. Freeman Bunn. They looked like the Mad Men guys. It was fun to be the ‘token Jew’ in the land of WASP’s.
  • DFS taught me about the value of strategy and consumer research.
  • The agency has serious clients like P&G, Toyota, Nabisco, Yoplait, Wrangler, HP and made great ads like Wendy’s ‘Where’s the beef?’
  • DFS was the ‘Agency Of The Year.’
  • I got go to work in the art deco Chrysler Building. A fucking brilliant way to start the day.
  • Our corporate culture was benevolent.
  • Our mantra was: ‘Ambitious Advertising’.
  • Our most senior clients valued powerful advertising.
  • We won 90% of our new business pitches. That’s how I learned to pitch.
  • I got to dress up in great suits and ties. Note: I grew up in Manhattan, so looking good was part of my ethos.
  • Everyone was good looking.
  • By my third year, I was flying around the world.
  • Yes, we drank and many snorted coke. It was, after all, the 1980’s.
  • In the late 1980’s we were bought by Saatchi & Saatchi.
  • The purchase allowed me to move to our London office – our creative epicenter –  in 1990. There were English Dons, Peggys and Rogers over there too. They just drank much more red wine.

Fuck yeah.

That’s why I dig Mad Men.

It was both real (I  witnessed their era) and the show did a decent job, well sort of, showing the ad-man lifestyle. We were very much about being very creative. Not…

…programmatic buying drones.

Which brings me to a final point. I’d love to see us bring back the sexy bits. I fear that pixels and apps are simply not as much fun as my favorite Northwest Airlines shoot which spanned Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and Japan. Ah, 1980’s expense accounts (and the profits from the 15% commission.)

OK, last point.

I didn’t totally mean what I just said about the ‘good old days’. I believe that given the complexities of today’s analog and digital advertising world… today can be the most exciting time to be in marketing. Just don’t forget to stop, take a breath and have a drink and toast Matthew Weiner.

Advertising, digital, social still has the coolest people to down a beer with.


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