What Mad Men Taught Me

Next month will be the second part of the final season of AMC’s Mad Men which spanned only 7 episodes the previous year and only a few more this year. On air since 2007 it caught my attention in the summer of 2009 where i spent most of it binge watching TV shows and preparing to say goodbye to friends. An “Ad Man” myself I left the colourful offices, heated arguments, low pay and substance abuse and crossed the table where I was the one dishing out the unreasonableness. Looking back at one of my favourite shows that centred itself around a Madison Avenue advertising agency in the 50’s I jot down a few things I learnt from its characters.

Well, one day you’re there and then all of a sudden there’s less of you. And you wonder where that part went, if it’s living somewhere outside of you, and you keep thinking maybe you’ll get it back. And then you realize, it’s just gone.

Peggy Olson

Peggy Olson taught me that even if you’re in the deep end, keep swimming up and when there is light swim harder for it. She grew from a secretary to Head of Copy including leaving Don and joining another company, all whilst going through personal turmoil. Her work gets in the way of her personal life. Like it does in all of us.

This is ridiculous. If I’m going to die, I want to die in Manhattan!

Pete Campbell

Pete Campbell reminds how oil and water don’t mix yet they’re both liquids. He is shrewd, cunning, smart and most times tactful. But he ensures that the work gets done no matter what the cost, emotionally or sometimes physical. He also took a beating, again physically, from Lane. He was a man of conflict, he was a fresher haven’t been in  the war but strategically conquering the war zone. I watched him evolve from the terrible American Draco Malfoy of the 50’s to a partner at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (SCDP)

It’s my job to take them to dinner at 80 miles an hour. It’s my job to stop a mile from the restaurant so they can have five pounds of crab legs and three bottles of beer apiece and then go get prime rib. It’s my job to go hunting so they can fire off their guns an inch from my ear and laugh when I get startled because It’s. My. Job.

Ken Cosgrove

In Sri Lanka we don’t really practice client servicing. Its why they’re called the “Brands” department. They’re just messengers who bring orders from the clients. The satisfaction of the order accomplished is enough Client Servicing and everyone goes home. But Roger Sterling did Client Servicing the way it supposed to be. A lot of people think that Client Servicing is a simple job of handling a client, its more than that. Client Servicing Executives (CSE) are Marketers, Consultants and Diplomats. When the client visits at the agency CSE sits on his side of the board room. When CSEs’ go to the clients they occupy the away side. CSEs’ are supposed to have a relationship with Creative to suggest ideas to clients that can be done. This is why when some people think Roger Sterling is useless, I think he isn’t. He’s the one clients come to meet, the one they call when a problem arises. The client calls him. He was the original smooth operator, moving fluidly between Client and Agency ensuring that the best of work is produced. A rare kind in todays world.

She was born in 1898 in a barn. She died on the thirty-seventh floor of a skyscraper. She’s an astronaut.”

Bertram Cooper

With creativity comes eccentricity, like electricity ideas strike the mind at unfathomable speeds. This effects makes our body respond in a very unusual matter, out of the ordinary, different and not normal are a few descriptions. Whether it be playing role playing fight offs with your pens to drinking tea at the same time or having to set up a workstation at a different place every other day (I do this) it all allows the mind to rest to allow it to be ready for lightning to strike. Bertram Cooper was the Chief Creative Officer of SCDP, I presume as his designation is never announced and he never does any work, he’s the oldest and his name is on the building, somewhat like Yoda on the council minus the fighting. His peeve of people wearing shoes in his office room, Japanese influenced office complete with Bonsai tree and brown suits with styled beard complete the picture of the resident eccentric of SCDP. Looking at Creative Directors or Chief Creative Officer’s of today you see flair, no ties, madness is normal and raised egos. Unlike Don who was always in a crisp suit, kept laundered clothes in his drawer and drank all the time. Wait the last one hasn’t changed. Bertram may have been the beginning of the creative eccentric soul that influenced the likes of Stan & Ginsberg and continues to do so in all of us.

Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of a road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is OK. You are OK.

Don Draper

I reflect back on the first episode of Mad Men. Clean shaven, well dressed Don Draper getting dressed in office after an evening of debauchery with a brunette. A glimpse of his war medal before casual exercise is interrupted by his Art Director presenting sketches for a tobacco commercial. His famous siestas that invite lightning to strike the idea tree in the open field is showcased for the first time. Characters are introduced, life goes on, Don goes home to his wife, a blonde. Later onwards I learn that Don is not a man of many faces but a man of many masks with one face. Throughout the show we see the many masks but his face remains the same. Don Draper teaches you how to adapt to survive whilst keeping your principals intact. From Car Dealer to Creative Head, he moved mountains and captured hearts all in a simple flow of success and concrete self belief.

Eventually he finds himself. The show was about Don’s many masks and finally his true face, advertising included made this one of the best produced and written shows in a long time.  He eventually solves himself, the last mask before his face shows itself.

I cannot wait for this show to end.



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