Author, advertising and
publishing consultant, former
editor of Chicago and other
magazines, former creative
director of Campbell-Ewald and
other advertising agencies. For
more information, click here. Or
see Who's Who in America or
Consulting editor, historian, poet
and author of several books. For
more information, click here or
BLOGS and GLOBS: I have
been writing a blog since 1966,
only I didn't know it. In those
days, it came out in the form of a
newsletter on paper. Remember
paper? It never got lost in
cyberspace, although if it got wet
enough blog turned into glob. I
called it The Uncommentator,
and tried to make it amusing. To
read some of my favorites, see
Recent Books by the Frisbies.
MAD AT MAD MEN
January, 2011--When the television series Mad Men first started, I was intrigued to learn that it was set in a 1960s advertising agency. The producers were said to be taking pains to make the costumes and sets as true to the era as possible. I made a point of watching a couple of the early episodes.
Although it achieved popularity and critical acclaim, I was disappointed. In the early 1960s, I was Chicago creative director for a multi-city advertising agency. The ambience portrayed by Mad Men didn’t seem to me at all authentic. I expected to see office politics played at virtuoso level (that was familiar), but there was no suggestion that at times creating ads could be fun.
The only movie I can recall that captured this spirit more or less accurately was Nothing in Common with Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason. Hanks plays a young creative director responsible for creating a new advertising campaign for a fictional airline. The film includes the hijinks of his creative group in developing campaign ideas, selling the best one to the client and producing the initial commercial. Allowing for certain dramatic necessities of the plot, it depicts the process much as I remember it.
When my creative group had to come up with a new campaign, I’d collect writers and art directors in my office, where I had put up a dart board sent to me at Christmas by a supplier. We’d take turns throwing darts and tossing out ideas. If some of them were too silly to consider, that was fine. The silly ideas got us laughing and loosened everyone up to let our imaginations work freely.
Usually, an hour or so of throwing darts and laughing produced two or three ideas generally considered promising. A writer/art director team would then go off and develop each idea in detail.
Account representatives were not invited to these sessions. Only after the creative group reached consensus on the best idea would the account people get to see it, have their chance to raise objections, if any, then go sell it to the client. This system kept clients happy and from time to time won industry awards.
Perhaps later episodes of Mad Men that I didn’t see captured the fun side of ad-making. And I have to admit that it wasn’t always fun. I remember the case of a brilliant art director named Lou, who had been working for another agency. One day the head of his company came round to rouse up the staff with the kind of pep talk that business leaders often inflict on their sales forces.
But Lou did not wish to fight, fight, fight for the company. He regretted that he had only one life and had no intention of sacrificing it on the altar of commerce.
The longer the chief talked, the more depressed Lou became. He finally slipped out a rear door and went home. He never did go back. Instead, he came to work at my shop.