20 Modern-Day Mad Men & Women On The Legacy Of ‘Mad Men’

Exec­u­tives from agen­cies weigh in on what AMC’s ‘Mad Men’ has meant for the adver­tis­ing indus­try, and what will be the show’s endur­ing lega­cy.

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 0 comments

AMC is push­ing the final episodes of its hit series “Mad Men”, which begin air­ing April 5, as #TheEnd­o­fan­Era. For many view­ers, par­tic­u­lar­ly those in the adver­tis­ing indus­try, it is. Even though “Mad Men” is in many respects a time cap­sule of a bygone era, which has cer­tain­ly helped fuel its pop­u­lar­i­ty on a broad­er lev­el, there are still some prin­ci­ples that remain true in the ad indus­try today. The con­tent and out­lets may have changed, but the cre­ative process has not. Client inter­ac­tion is still vital. And it’s a show and an indus­try about human behav­ior.


As Momen­tol­ogy pre­pares for the final episodes of “Mad Men”, we talked to 19 adver­tis­ing exec­u­tives to get their take on what the tele­vi­sion show has revealed about the adver­tis­ing indus­try and what the show’s endur­ing lega­cy will be. Their com­ments fol­low.

Many laud the show’s atten­tion to detail, point­ing to iden­ti­fi­able sit­u­a­tions they have expe­ri­enced them­selves. They also talk about the allure the show has cre­at­ed for the indus­try over­all to those out­side of it. And, they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.


Josh Welt­man, “Mad Men” co-pro­duc­er, for­mer adver­tis­ing indus­try cre­ative direc­tor  Joshua Weltman Mad Men

I think that the show came along at a time when adver­tis­ing was being upend­ed by the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion in media.

Mad Men” did a lot to remind peo­ple work­ing in the ad busi­ness that regard­less of media, old, new, tra­di­tion­al and social, per­sua­sion depends on some­one one hav­ing an idea that speaks to the wants, hopes and expec­ta­tions of anoth­er per­son.

I hope that idea lasts. I think it’s good to keep things between humans human.


Ger­ard Caputo, Exec­u­tive Cre­ative Direc­tor, BBH

Gerard Caputo BBHFor me, the fact that the show is in the adver­tis­ing indus­try is more cir­cum­stan­tial, in a way. I do think the thing that they have in com­mon is more about the peo­ple and the char­ac­ters.

Ad agen­cies are real­ly just about the peo­ple they have in them. The ad indus­try is about the indi­vid­u­als and those are the things that make it inter­est­ing or com­pli­cat­ed or hard or fun. It’s about the mix of peo­ple. “Mad Men” is real­ly about peo­ple — that’s the biggest con­nec­tion.

The show makes some pret­ty astute obser­va­tions about adver­tis­ing, which I think it most­ly cen­ters around Peg­gy and what she’s gone through. She’s devel­oped up through the ranks and has had a lot of chal­lenges Don Drap­er hasn’t had. She’s gone through things, been a vic­tim and had to change and adapt and take advan­tage of sit­u­a­tions. Those things were more her sto­ry arc and it feels like…some things peo­ple actu­al­ly go through.

[There are also] clas­sic sit­u­a­tions like I know that in the past I have heard of cre­ative direc­tors leav­ing boards in the car and some of those things that hap­pen that are very bad – the cre­ative direc­tor clichés – but it’s fun­ny how they did focus on that at times. And then some­times Don Drap­er feel­ing out of touch and get­ting back to the work again.

Cre­ative direc­tors may feel like they’re hav­ing to get clos­er to work and find their cen­ter of grav­i­ty, which is what he did in the last sea­son. Those things are inter­est­ing and feel a bit more true.

I think it’s one of the first shows [to do a] good job of get­ting close to what we do, but it’s still a fan­ta­sy. I think it will be remem­bered for hav­ing great characters…not nec­es­sar­i­ly an ad thing. But it does make peo­ple inter­est­ed in adver­tis­ing that maybe wouldn’t be…or it some­times feels the mag­ic of what we do – like the curtain’s been lift­ed and every­one is cre­ative and I think back then.

The show does a nice job of talk­ing cre­ative process, which is now lost in some ways. Now it’s more about tech, and I think maybe in some ways the lega­cy will be that it’s shown what peo­ple did was real­ly cool and maybe make peo­ple inter­est­ed and want to get into adver­tis­ing.


Joe Grimal­di, Chair­man, Mullen ©2013 Ben Gebo Photography

I’m an avid “Mad Men” watch­er. I actu­al­ly pre­fer the binge watch­ing. When it’s drawn out, it’s annoy­ing. If I could, I would sit down and watch the entire­ty like a movie and then be done with it.

This is a show that actu­al­ly pen­e­trat­ed soci­ety and cul­ture and cap­tured imag­i­na­tion. If you recall, in the sec­ond or third or fourth sea­son, before it came back, peo­ple were hav­ing “Mad Men” par­ties and wear­ing the same kind of clothes or things that were sort of relat­ed to that era.

The adver­tis­ing busi­ness has always been very pub­lic and I don’t know if glam­orous is the right word, but it’s about putting ideas on film and shap­ing what peo­ple think about [them] and how they think about [them]…and there have been many, many shows and sto­ries about it. What the show gets a lot of cred­it is for the atten­tion to detail and excru­ci­at­ing research.

On the neg­a­tive side, it’s like any movie or sto­ry – there’s the vil­lain and antag­o­nist that builds the dra­ma and ten­sion. Were there peo­ple drink­ing and wom­an­iz­ing? I think the answer is yes. Was every­one doing it? No…but they paint the entire indus­try [as if it was ] very much into that as way of life and I think that’s what makes the show inter­est­ing. If it was about a guy who went home every day you’d end up with Ward Cleaver, who was just a good father and he was in the ad busi­ness.

I think what I iden­ti­fy with in the show is that a lot of the sit­u­a­tions that were por­trayed – not nec­es­sar­i­ly how they were por­trayed – but the real­i­ty is total­ly true. I’ve been in sit­u­a­tions in which you’re work­ing on a pitch and it comes down to the final day and the per­son you’re talk­ing to gets fired and now you have a dead pitch before you make a pitch, yet you have invest­ed all this time…I think that when you take out all the crazy drink­ing and crazy stuff and look at what’s going on, there’s a truth to that.

The new busi­ness pitch­es, the pres­sure on doing the work, the jock­ey­ing for posi­tion – those kinds of things real­ly hap­pen and hap­pen on a reg­u­lar basis. Some­one who is bril­liant implodes in front of you or is genius in cer­tain ways, but los­es real­i­ty in part and does some­thing on their own and cre­ates a major prob­lem for the agency. All of that kind of stuff is true.

As peo­ple look back at “Mad Men”, what it will have done is set a tone for the flair and style that did exist in adver­tis­ing and didn’t exist in oth­er busi­ness­es like bank­ing and real estate. And I think that it will also for a lot of peo­ple who aren’t deeply involved in the adver­tis­ing indus­try, make them think there are a lot of hard-drink­ing, crazy ass lunatics in that busi­ness.

I think peo­ple will remem­ber that this is a hard-dri­ving busi­ness of crazy peo­ple who go all out and not nec­es­sar­i­ly in the best ways. But what I real­ly think at the end of the day for peo­ple like myself inside is that we will reflect that it did cap­ture the real­i­ty of the biz and things that hap­pen in a very pro­found­ly mean­ing­ful way.


Tom Eslinger, World­wide Direc­tor of Dig­i­tal and Social, Saatchi & Saatchi Tom Eslinger Saatchi

I’ve always thought of “Mad Men” as “The Sopra­nos” minus the mur­der with square jobs. Gang men­tal­i­ty, betray­al, odd­ball affairs and this guy at the cen­ter with cre­ative ideas to keep it all togeth­er, yet fail­ing to do the same for him­self.

Mad Men” has a cadence that you always knew what was going to hap­pen: assas­si­na­tions, Man­son mur­ders, fash­ions, moon land­ing along­side the real “adver­tis­ing” things hap­pen­ing like mul­ti-nation­al takeovers, the rise of media as a cre­ative dis­ci­pline, and uncom­fort­able merg­ers that end bad­ly. That bal­ance of know­ing what’s going to hap­pen and not hav­ing a clue where it’s going at the same time had me hooked every sea­son.

I was real­ly lucky to start my career while still in col­lege and had pro­fes­sors and men­tors that did their rounds on the 1960s agency cir­cuit, like Hazel Gamec and oth­ers like P. Scott Makela and Charles Spencer Ander­son that were tak­ing adver­tis­ing into cool new places in the 1990s. For me, every episode remind­ed me that this is the most inter­est­ing place to work ever. Still. And keep a sense of humor about the whole thing: AMC should option ‘The Awe­some World of Adver­tis­ing’ Tum­blr blog and turn it into Mad Men 2015.

Is any­thing ad-relat­ed in the show still applic­a­ble today? Be absolute­ly bru­tal about get­ting the best, most amaz­ing ideas in front of our clients and cus­tomers.


Susan Credle Leo BurnettSusan Cre­dle, Chief Cre­ative Offi­cer, Leo Bur­nett

The show unques­tion­ably influ­enced pop cul­ture, fash­ion and inte­ri­or design. It would be naive to say it didn’t affect per­cep­tions of the adver­tis­ing indus­try.


Mahir Hos­sein, Senior Pro­duc­er, R/GA Mahir Hossein RGAIt real­ly “pulled back the cur­tain” and showed how agen­cies oper­ate from the point of view of cre­atives, account peo­ple, and more. Of course things have changed, and the show was not always the most real­is­tic, but a lot of what hap­pened is applic­a­ble to our work today.

We get an RFP, we pitch, we present work to clients. Some­times work is well received and some­times it isn’t. The show cap­tured the frus­tra­tions and the cel­e­bra­tions in a pret­ty real way.

Per­son­al­ly, it made me real­ize that some things nev­er change – they just progress. For exam­ple, they worked with print-out boards for their pre­sen­ta­tions, we work with decks.

One of the real dif­fer­ences is tech­nol­o­gy. Can you image what Don Drap­er would have done if he had had the Inter­net? Social media? I won­der what Don Draper’s Insta­gram would look like.

We live in fas­ci­nat­ing times – it’s fast paced com­pared to what it used to be, large­ly because of tech­nol­o­gy, Inter­net, social media, which makes infor­ma­tion shar­ing real time, you get infor­ma­tion in sec­onds now.

Tar­get­ing is also com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent, it used to be that they had two to three chan­nels (print, TV, radio) and that was it. You cre­at­ed a print ad and a TV com­mer­cial and put it out there hop­ing for the best. Today you can tar­get who­ev­er you want with by all the infor­ma­tion that is avail­able online on the dif­fer­ent plat­forms. You can cre­ate con­tent that is specif­i­cal­ly for that indi­vid­ual, some­thing per­son­al, with the high­er like­li­hood for ROI on that than a print ad or TV com­mer­cial that reach­es the mass­es rather than the spe­cif­ic audi­ence you want.

The agency world is def­i­nite­ly not as sex­ist as it was back then, and on the show, but I do feel women still have a hard­er time land­ing top posi­tions. The indus­try has def­i­nite­ly worked hard to change that, but there is def­i­nite­ly still work to be done. I think that’s true for all pro­fes­sions and not just adver­tis­ing. I would like to have worked with Peg­gy, she should have been the lead cre­ative at the agency and Joan was clear­ly more respon­si­ble than the exec­u­tives on the show.

Mad Men” is all about human behav­ior. The show was great at get­ting deep into these char­ac­ters’ per­son­al lives and show­ing why they do what they do. I can def­i­nite­ly see how their expe­ri­ences are rel­e­vant to what goes on today, even though it’s been so long.

I’ll miss watch­ing Don Drap­er and Roger Ster­ling drink and smoke in the office. It set a real­ly cool scene and always left me wish­ing that we did that today.


Pierre Lip­ton, Chief Cre­ative Offi­cer, 360i Pierre Lipton 360i

Mad Men” is sin­gu­lar­ly respon­si­ble for mak­ing adver­tis­ing peo­ple inter­est­ing again at non-indus­try cock­tail par­ties. How? By telling sto­ries that some old-timers might actu­al­ly call tame ver­sions of the truth.

Mad Men” did it all with beau­ti­ful writ­ing, style and per­for­mances. Or, as they would have put it back in the day, Copy, Art and Pro­duc­tion.

We will miss it every Sun­day, ad infini­tum (impru­den­tia pun). 


Jason De Tur­ris, Vice Pres­i­dent and Chief Strat­e­gy Offi­cer, CP+B Jason De Turris CP+B

Ad peo­ple have been a one-dimen­sion­al stereo­type since their ear­li­est por­tray­als in the media. From the orig­i­nal “12 Angry Men” with a juror who speaks in shal­low yet catchy plat­i­tudes like, “Let’s run it up the flag­pole and see if any­one salutes,” to the all-con­sum­ing and con­niv­ing por­tray­al of an agency leader in “What Women Want.” They posi­tion us as sneaky oppor­tunists and slick sales­men.

I hope “Mad Men” would some­how recast us as the ulti­mate com­pet­i­tive advan­tage. The unsung and uncon­ven­tion­al heroes who solve prob­lems. But it all depends on how Don goes out.

Over­all, I’ll miss Draper’s bril­liance in the midst of mad­ness. The char­ac­ter vac­il­lates between flawed and flaw­less. I’ll miss the inter­nal debate that occurs when root­ing for some­one you admire and despise in the same suit. If you hate him, you’re not hon­est with your­self, and if you love him, you have to ques­tion why. It’s not an adver­tis­ing bat­tle, it’s a human bat­tle.

The show has taught us that every­thing new is old. We are an indus­try obsessed with look­ing for­ward. Every six months, there is a new media verb, plat­form or cam­paign that we “salute.” While tech­nol­o­gy has changed our indus­try immense­ly, the human fac­tor and inter­play with clients are pret­ty con­stant. It teach­es the time­less les­son that peo­ple who “get” peo­ple will get the best ideas from a tis­sue ses­sion to Times Square.

In grad school I was for­tu­nate enough to work on a doc­u­men­tary with some for­mer 1960s DDB icons. It was focused on the per­son­al­i­ties behind the orig­i­nal Volk­swa­gen cam­paign. I got to vis­it and inter­view Hall of Famers like Julian Koenig, Bob Levin­son and Roy Grace, to name a few.

Koenig, who passed away last year, was a direct link for me to the Mad Men era. Koenig has “Lemon,” “Think Small” and “Takes a Lick­ing and Keeps on Tick­ing,” in his cred­its. When reflect­ing on “Lemon,” he explained to me: “If you lis­ten to clients, you can hear them speak ads to you.”

Koenig called places like The Palm and Four Sea­sons the cafe­te­ria (mean­ing he ate there for lunch all the time). He didn’t labor in the office if ideas weren’t flow­ing. He defeat­ed writer’s block by head­ing to the horse track. He was a free spir­it and didn’t need to make apolo­gies because he was a mas­ter in his craft. He embod­ied both the flaws and flaw­less­ness that cre­at­ed ten­sion in his work.

Like many in the Mad Men era, the col­li­sion of ten­sion and truth led to work that will live for­ev­er. Thank you to them and thank you “Mad Men”.


Scott Mont­gomery, Prin­ci­pal, Bradley and Mont­gomery Scott C Montgomery BAM

To the degree that the sto­ry showed Peg­gy move from with­er­ing func­tionary to tough-mind­ed cre­ative lead, and how the con­text of the social changes of ‘60s helped embold­en her, it was an inter­est­ing med­i­ta­tion on the rise of women in busi­ness – only to be con­front­ed with a whole new, per­haps more nefar­i­ous, lay­er of glass ceil­ings.

There are still laugh­ably few women in cre­ative depart­ments in the Amer­i­can ad busi­ness, and “Mad Men” served to point up, as it did on so many issues, that while it seems dif­fer­ent today, in impor­tant ways, we’re just as back­ward as ever.


Craig Moore, Cre­ative Direc­tor, Bradley and Mont­gomery Craig_Moore BAM

The era of the Mad Men is over. The ram­pant sex­ism, and out­ra­geous claims about a product’s ben­e­fits are not, and shouldn’t be, prac­tices that are tol­er­at­ed by the indus­try.

How­ev­er, at its core there are some ideas that remain sol­id to this day. Ideas like boil­ing a brand down to its absolute sim­plest essence, find­ing what is unique about it and using that to mar­ket a prod­uct to its appro­pri­ate audi­ence are still key to suc­cess­ful adver­tis­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

The tools for iden­ti­fy­ing, and learn­ing about the audi­ence are far more advanced, and the tools for cre­at­ing the work are far more democ­ra­tized. The tools of the trade are now eas­i­ly avail­able and acces­si­ble by near­ly every­one on the plan­et.

We all car­ry amaz­ing cam­eras in our pock­ets, and we all con­trol our own media net­works where we broad­cast our thoughts, and hopes and dreams. On top of all of this, the tech­nol­o­gy plat­forms are con­stant­ly evolv­ing and improv­ing so that you can reach your audi­ence in a more mean­ing­ful and effi­cient ways.

While the media tech­nol­o­gy is vast­ly dif­fer­ent, the way good ideas are cre­at­ed are very much the same. My favorite Don Drap­er quote to this day, which feel still holds true is, “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the con­ver­sa­tion.”

Jean Mor­row, Copy­writer at BBH Jean Morrow BBH

I think one of the things that “Mad Men” did was it def­i­nite­ly made work­ing in adver­tis­ing seem sexy and it made more peo­ple want to do it. I know I’ve spo­ken to at least one per­son who was young enough that watch­ing “Mad Men” affect­ed his desire to want to be in adver­tis­ing at all. It was pow­er­ful enough of a show that it affect­ed his career path and has the abil­i­ty to do that for peo­ple who might feel cre­ative and not be sure how they want to pay their rent.

When peo­ple ask me about the show, if the show comes up, they ask me some­thing like, “Is it real­ly like that?” and I always say, “Yeah, it’s pret­ty accu­rate.”

One of the big things in the show is good ideas save peo­ple in the show. It’s how Peg­gy got her first pro­mo­tion – she had the best idea for the lip­stick way back in the begin­ning of the show.

There’s a lot of polit­i­cal stuff and nefar­i­ous activ­i­ties and there’s some truth to that, but if you have a good idea that is bet­ter than the oth­ers and the client likes it…there’s some­thing mer­it-based about how it all works. Great cre­ative ideas do kind of win and that’s enjoy­able to watch in the show.

It’s real­ly dark a lot of times and they’re doing ter­ri­ble things to each oth­er and that’s upheld a cer­tain truth to that in agency expe­ri­ence as well, but good ideas are still kind of the most impor­tant thing.


Natal­ie Lam, Exec­u­tive Cre­ative Direc­tor, Razor­fish New York  NatalieLam_RazorfishThe “Mad Men” series has rein­tro­duced the stereo­typ­i­cal and super­fi­cial Madi­son Avenue of old. While cre­ative peo­ple still have a flare for the glam­orous life made so appeal­ing in the show, there has been a fun­da­men­tal shift in the cul­ture of today’s adver­tis­ing world.

There was once a dis­tinct hier­ar­chy in agency life, but the rise of mil­len­ni­al tal­ent has cre­at­ed an open, col­lab­o­ra­tive envi­ron­ment – often made vis­i­ble through social media. The rise of gen­der equal­i­ty became a key theme through­out the show and has been height­ened in today’s soci­ety.

We have sev­er­al clients who proac­tive­ly request that we be more diverse. The indus­try is not com­plete­ly there yet, but we’ve made sig­nif­i­cant progress.


Ari Halper, Exec­u­tive Cre­ative Direc­tor, GREY NY

Ari Halper GreyMost peo­ple now think that every cre­ative direc­tor is like Don Drap­er. Bril­liant, ego­ma­ni­a­cal, misog­y­nis­tic, Machi­avel­lian, alco­holic, nar­cis­sis­tic worka­holics. To which I per­son­al­ly take great offense. I am def­i­nite­ly not Machi­avel­lian!

I’ve learned that back then the hard­est part of being in the busi­ness was stay­ing mar­ried and avoid­ing cir­rho­sis of the liv­er. Today, not much has improved on the mar­riage front, between all of the late nights and week­end work, but at least the drink­ing is down sig­nif­i­cant­ly, unless you count the week in Cannes where every­one pounds so much hooch it seems like they’re try­ing to make up for this.


Dan Con­nol­ly, CEO, LEVEL Stu­dios

Dan Connolly LEVEL CEOMad Men” has made the cre­ative process of adver­tis­ing more relat­able and per­son­al­ized, not through the indi­vid­ual “cre­ative genius” pro­files like Don Drap­er, but in the way art and copy is brought togeth­er to ideate around prod­uct and mar­ket­ing expe­ri­ences.

While the out­put of adver­tis­ing has evolved, the process of inspi­ra­tion and ideation still remains rel­e­vant. Today, the room has expand­ed past the Don Drap­ers and Peg­gy Olsons, and includes mobile design­ers, cre­ative tech­nol­o­gist and engi­neers – all com­ing togeth­er to build com­pelling sto­ries and mean­ing­ful prod­ucts with the user at the cen­ter.

Mad Men” depicts a dark­er side of the adver­tis­ing indus­try, cor­rupt and with gen­der and racial inequal­i­ty. While we’ve made progress since the peri­od of “Mad Men”, there is still a wide gap in the diver­si­fi­ca­tion of indus­try lead­ers.

As “Mad Men” comes to a close, I hope that its lega­cy will be to mark the end of an era and kick­start a new chap­ter in our indus­try, one that inspires a gen­er­a­tion of open­ness and inclu­sion at all lev­els.


John Gross, Direc­tor of Marketing/Client Devel­op­ment, Struck John Gross Struck

I start­ed my career in the busi­ness before dig­i­tal, when there were just four media pos­si­bil­i­ties (print, radio, TV and out­door). And while I’ve nev­er worked in a big Madi­son Avenue agency, I do remem­ber those days as being remark­ably sim­pler, when it came to effec­tive mes­sag­ing and adver­tis­ing.

There seemed to be an even stronger empha­sis on the client-side for that “big idea” that would break-through. Now it seems many clients are count­ing on tech­nol­o­gy to help them break through, even though that big idea still needs to be there.

For me, one of the endur­ing lega­cies of the show will be the con­text it pro­vides to peo­ple who aren’t in the busi­ness. Since the show began, as soon as I men­tion I’m in adver­tis­ing, inevitably the show is brought up, ask­ing “Is it real­ly like that?” And while the show does a great job of show­ing the pas­sion in the work and the big per­son­al­i­ties the indus­try attracts, the fact is our busi­ness is way dif­fer­ent than it was in that era. But it at least pro­vides a start­ing point for out­siders to under­stand the indus­try. As an account guy, how­ev­er, I will nev­er for­give them for the way they por­trayed Pete, ini­tial­ly.

The show does illus­trate the pas­sion and the insights that still are need­ed to deliv­er killer work. That hasn’t changed.

Whether it’s a nation­al broad­cast cam­paign, or an amaz­ing web­site, good work must be fought for, must be well-pre­sent­ed and on strat­e­gy – that won’t ever change.

I can also say that hav­ing been a fan of the show, I’ve used a “Carousel” moment in a cou­ple of pitch­es in the past three to four years that have been extreme­ly well-received. I will take that away from the show – there is a sig­nif­i­cant the­atri­cal aspect to our busi­ness that we can’t ignore. It’s the fun part of our clients’ day when they get to see our ideas, and mak­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion even big­ger is nev­er a bad thing.


Denise Bla­se­vick, CEO, the S3 Agency

Denise Blasevick S3As the own­er of an ad agency and a fan of “Mad Men”, I have watched the show reg­u­lar­ly and enjoyed see­ing how it affect­ed peo­ple in and beyond the indus­try.

One of the biggest ben­e­fits I think that “Mad Men” has shown us is that, beyond the drink­ing and dra­ma, the ‘60s Madi­son Avenue era was borne from great ideas. And those great ideas take time to devel­op and deserve prop­er in per­son pre­sen­ta­tion.

Today, we are so caught up in being fast (and hope­ful­ly first) that we may sac­ri­fice the time it takes to get to the best place. We then all too often email con­cepts instead of pro­vid­ing a wor­thy pre­sen­ta­tion. Why does this hap­pen? Is it how agen­cies pre­fer to act? It’s cer­tain­ly not how my agency wants to work – and I don’t think the indus­try in gen­er­al wants to do it that way, either. After all, we want to give our ideas the best fight­ing chance.

How­ev­er, cor­po­rate bud­gets and time­lines many times result in rush­ing, rush­ing, rush­ing, and that can neces­si­tate half-baked ideas vie email exchanges and texts that result in actu­al fin­ished cam­paigns. Does that allow the Don Drap­er mag­ic to hap­pen? Rarely.

If there is a last­ing lega­cy of “Mad Men”, I can only hope it will be buy­ing a bit more time for the idea. Because that’s what it should be all about.


Nora Miller, Co-Founder, Ander­son Miller PR

Nora Miller Anderson MillerI think the most last­ing lega­cy of “Mad Men” will be telling the sto­ry of ad agen­cies dur­ing the peak of tra­di­tion­al mar­ket­ing. It was sim­ply TV com­mer­cials, print ads, brochures, bill­boards, and maybe some direct mail.

We don’t see Don Drap­er cre­at­ing social media hash­tags or dream­ing up the next ALS ice buck­et chal­lenge. He was dis­ap­point­ed when Peg­gy Olsen pulled the hon­ey-baked ham gro­cery store stunt. “Mad Men” will always be a cap­sule of what adver­tis­ing looked like when the mar­ket­ing chan­nels were straight­for­ward, before the Inter­net.

Mad Men” is a height­ened dra­ma, but the themes of agency chal­lenges are true to life – whether it’s stay­ing up all night brain­storm­ing the next cre­ative break­through, or main­tain­ing client rela­tions. “Mad Men” has always been nice to watch after a tough week. I think agency pro­fes­sion­als like myself will remem­ber “Mad Men” scenes for years as a reminder that the dai­ly details and hard work of an agency pro­fes­sion­al are worth­while.

The office rela­tion­ships are also some­thing I will miss. Roger Sterling’s say­ing of ad men live and die by their accounts is true, and nowa­days, agency exec­u­tives move with dif­fer­ent agen­cies as often as accounts do.

Mak­ing friends and keep­ing allies in oth­er agen­cies is some­thing that has become a sur­vival skill for some. Some exec­u­tives know that you’ll nev­er be sure when you’ll need a friend to put in a good word.


Steven Hart­man, Vice Pres­i­dent of Mar­ket­ing, VigLink Steve Hartman Viglink

Mad Men”, for many of us in the adver­tis­ing indus­try, was enjoy­able on mul­ti­ple lev­els. On one lev­el this time peri­od series gave an equal­ly enter­tain­ing as insight­ful view into the dynam­ics of a mid-1900s work­place. We saw just how far things have come for social, gen­der and racial inequities, as well as mak­ing us reflect on how far we still have to go.

On anoth­er lev­el, “Mad Men” gave us an inter­est­ing con­trast to how busi­ness was con­duct­ed in an ana­log world long before any­thing dig­i­tal exist­ed. As I watched this pro­gram through­out the sea­sons, there are a cou­ple points about how they con­duct­ed busi­ness that intrigued me [which includes native adver­tis­ing and new media chan­nels].

Even back then we see adver­tis­ing agen­cies want­i­ng to make their client’s mes­sage flow with the media for­mat they are consuming…and then deal­ing with blow­back for poten­tial­ly mis­lead­ing the con­sumer. Take, for exam­ple, this scene, when Drap­er is being inter­viewed and ques­tioned about their “Glow Coat Flo-Ex” com­mer­cials. Drap­er says, “I want­ed it to be indis­tin­guish­able from the movies. I want­ed peo­ple watch­ing it and say ‘What’s hap­pen­ing in the sto­ry right now? Oh, it’s some­thing dif­fer­ent. It’s not an ad’ … at least for the first 30 sec­onds.”

Com­pare that to today’s world where John Oliv­er takes the offen­sive on native ads. Same core issue, just a dif­fer­ent world of media where it’s sur­faced.

Har­ry Crane nego­ti­at­ed his way to a pro­mo­tion to be the depart­men­tal lead for TV after unsuc­cess­ful­ly pitch­ing a Belle Jolie lip­stick rep to air a com­mer­cial on The Defend­ers. Roger was smart enough to see that Ster­ling Coop­er need­ed to invest and learn about how to lever­age TV for the future suc­cess of their firm.

As “Mad Men” pro­gress­es through the sea­sons, we see tele­vi­sion pick­ing up larg­er audi­ences and adver­tis­ers and agen­cies lag­ging behind these trends in terms of their media-mix spend­ing. Today, the rate and advance­ment of new mar­ket­ing chan­nels hap­pen much more quick­ly, but the chal­lenge is still the same – being able to see where audi­ences are con­sum­ing their media and spend­ing the cor­rect amount to gain their atten­tion.


Jamie Falkows­ki, Mar­ket­ing Direc­tor, All­dayev­ery­day

Jamie Falkowski AlldayeverydayThe first [thing I’ll always love about the show] is the pow­er of con­nect­ing in the room and that inspi­ra­tion can come from any­where.

In the first episode, Don is strug­gling with a pitch for Lucky Strikes. We see him at the bar scrib­bling away on a nap­kin the night before the meet­ing with noth­ing. The research is back and it says sim­ply that health claims won’t work any­more.

Going into the meet­ing the team is deflat­ed and the client feels it but Don instant­ly turns a bur­den — med­ical claims are a dead end — into a solu­tion: this is everyone’s prob­lem. A few min­utes of ban­ter and you have a tagline, or at least a new direc­tion: “It’s Toast­ed.”

Some­thing sim­ple and  some­thing that is true of every oth­er brand is har­nessed and turned into some­thing only Lucky Strikes can own. Why? Because they made that sim­ple fact a real­i­ty and a sell­ing point; and it all came from the room.

The sec­ond thing is the pow­er of sto­ry. Don has shot him­self in the foot in lat­er sea­sons when talk­ing about per­son­al sto­ries, but in the clas­sic Kodak carousel episode he brings his account exec to tears with an emo­tion­al­ly inspired sto­ry that puts the prod­uct in con­text. Every time I build a nar­ra­tive for a pre­sen­ta­tion, I think of this moment. This was such a great part of the show that it went on to inspire this sim­ple (and now very dat­ed) piece of mar­ket­ing.


CJ John­son, Head of Cre­ative and Mar­ket­ing for Bud­dytruk

CJ Johnson BuddytrukI’m a mil­len­ni­al Don Drap­er in a lot of ways. “Mad Men” was actu­al­ly a huge influ­ence for me.

The “nos­tal­gia” mono­logue that Don Drap­er gave in the first sea­son was the cat­a­lyst for help­ing me under­stand that my clients (con­sumers as well) want to feel emo­tion­al­ly con­nect­ed to some­thing. This has made me bet­ter at pitch­ing projects, deal­ing with clients, and appeal­ing to con­sumers.

Even though “Mad Men” is just a TV show, it’s a TV show that inspired a whole new gen­er­a­tion of mar­keters and cre­atives. It also rein­vig­o­rat­ed ad men (and women) who have been in the busi­ness for quite some time.

One of the most inter­est­ing things about “Mad Men” cir­cles back to the moment I men­tioned above. The nos­tal­gia moment.

Every­one wants to feel con­nect­ed. Every­one wants to remem­ber the past and relive their most spe­cial moments. You can see it a lot with ref­er­ences to the ‘90s, the ‘80s, and the relaunch­ing of old movies, and tele­vi­sion shows. Even Levi’s reignit­ed a rela­tion­ship with an ad agency they haven’t worked with in years to give them more of a fun vibe vs the “Go Forth” cam­paigns.

Mad Men” will no doubt go down as one of the best TV dra­mas ever. It was beau­ti­ful­ly and metic­u­lous­ly exe­cut­ed by Matt Wein­er and team. I’ll miss those qui­et moments of intro­spec­tion from Don Drap­er and how cooly Roger Ster­ling han­dled most sit­u­a­tions. I wish there were more Roger Ster­lings. It would make offices a lot fun­ner.

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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