I was a die-hard “Mad Men” fan before I became an actual agency copywriter. When I tell most people I’m a copywriter, they don’t know what that means, until I tell them I’m basically like Peggy Olson (for better or for worse). Peggy, Don Draper, Roger Sterling, and the rest of the “Mad Men” crowd brought the archetypes of the agency world to the forefront of American consciousness – the creatives, the account executives, the media team – and the agency world itself to the forefront of modern American culture. The show even prepared me for entering agency life with its 1960s-era discussion of the big name agencies that still exist in various forms today, such as DDB, Leo Burnett, Ogilvy, and J. Walter Thompson.
As a “creative” here at Envisionit, the high standards of copywriting, design, presentation, and innovation set by the team led by Don Draper were truly inspirational. While Envisionit tends to do more digital marketing engagements than the kind of product campaigns from the show, after seven seasons of obsessive watching I feel like I can hear Don’s voice in my head when considering ideas and phrasing. I’m also inspired by the show writers who gave voices to all these characters, with the kind of perfectly written and memorable dialogue on par with the best advertising campaigns. It may be “just television” or “just advertising” – but the point of the show was that both are central to our culture, with huge influences on how people think, live, and relate to each other.
Set in the period from 1960-1970, “Mad Men” captured the “golden age” of advertising that saw the beginning of market research to target super-specific categories of consumers, the embrace of psychology to capture people’s deepest desires and fears, and the continual corporate development of advertising into big business that absorbed small agencies like Sterling Cooper into the giant multi-national conglomerates that exist today. While the show was fictional, it provided an important and relevant glimpse into a major industry that continues to be dogged by misconceptions and ill will towards the idea of advertising. Not only was “Mad Men” television at its finest, but it also showed how good advertising can be at its best – unique, memorable, and emotionally resonant.
“Mad Men” reminded us, in case we forgot, that advertising is an inescapable part of our modern lives. And the beauty of “Mad Men” was the acknowledgement of this fact, but it came coupled with a genuine appreciation of the art, writing, and necessary understanding of the human condition to create advertising that truly reaches people. The pitches and campaigns created by Don Draper and company showed us the level of creativity necessary to create iconic messages that transcended simple marketing to be the true American art form.
Now that “Mad Men” is over, I’ll be curious to see what reverberations continue through mainstream culture. While I will certainly miss the show, it’s reassuring to know that the full collection of episodes in all of its stylish advertising wisdom and glory exists, like a novel, on my shelf of DVDs and in my Netflix collection. We’ll miss you, Don Draper.
[Image Source: AMC]