Mad About "Mad Men"

Have you become addicted to the AMC original series, Mad Men yet? If you love advertising and you love drama, you should. I recently caught up with Season 1 on Comcast On Demand. This is a juicy peek into the marketing (and personal) machinations of a 1960’s fictional ad agency, Sterline Cooper. The best parts of where they are in creative strategy discussions about everything from cigarettes to Israel tourism.

I find myself thinking about how far we’ve come in terms of understanding audiences in our marekting and advertising efforts – and yet, also find myself wishing we could back to brass tacks and simplicity as these guys have. Since media vehicles were limited, the conversation was less about “which size banner should we post” and “should be have 2 or 3 blogs” and more about “What are we trying to communicate?” I long for those creative pow wows of my ad agency days where you actually sat and talked and brainstormed and discussed. Seems our busy schedules don’t leave enough time for the heavy thinking before acting.
Word of warning to the faint of heart: this series is all about showing the prickly underbelly of early 1960’s America – with all it’s racism, sexism and inappropriate workplace behavior. Some scenes may literally make you cringe (but please, bring back open bars in meetings!) It’s all a nice backdrop, however, to understand the advertising of the day within its context. One particularly delicious scene is where the account team is half envying/half mocking the new VW Beetle ads that had come out from their competition. These were the famous “Lemon” print ads that broke new ground in advertising. At least you can see that some account team egos have not changed that much, and only a wise few can give their competitors’ campaigns fair due when earned, while others will always cry sour grapes.

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