Why Mad Men Matters

Advertising student (me) hashes out on the importance of the AMC hit show (as seen in April issue of W27)

Taking a step back to appreciate all the life lessons the ladies and gentlemen of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce have taught me abecause my life would otherwise spiral down into a dark and chaotic abyss and leave me questioning What Would Draper Do? (#WWDD if you want to start that on Twitter)

It’s Quotable

Don’t lie. You memorized most, if not all, the slogans Don and his team have come up with in the past five years. Lucky Strike’s “It’s toasted,” Hilton Hotel’s “How do you say hamburger in Japanese? Hilton,” Mohawk Airline’s, “There’s a new chief in the sky,” or Belle Jolie’s “Mark Your Man.” Let’s not forget the most beautiful piece of television occurred in the finale of season one where Don delivers the Carousel speech to Kodak. Had me in tears and browsing eBay for my own projector. And when it’s not the slogans, we look to the more profound quotes that have popped up in previous seasons. “You want some respect? Go out there and get it for yourself” (S4E9). “Being with a client is like being in a marriage. Sometimes you get into it for the wrong reasons, and eventually they hit you in the face” (S1E10). “But that’s life. One minute you’re on top of the world, the next minute some secretary’s running you over with a lawn mower”(S3E3). My favorite though? “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation” (S3E2). And I’ll admit to having used that in a cover letter when applying for a copywriting internship. Did it work? Probably not, I never heard back from them. Regardless, the genius writers of the show have basically compiled a collection of How To Make It in the World quotes—AMC should pitch that to a publishing company—for us to live by. They are not only applicable in the advertising world but also “real” life itself.

It’s Fashionable

I go to a fashion school, so I had to go there. The fashions we see in the show make me want to cry. 1. For its beauty and quality 2. Because we no longer have the luxury of beautifully made clothes when everything is being mass-produced in China—unless we are willing to pay a pretty penny for the “Made in USA” label and 3. It is a constant reminder of the disgrace that has happened to fashion today (booty shorts are so Miami Ultra, get over it girls!). Call me old school but that hint of elegance has gone down the drains. My secret is to go to the Plaza Hotel for high tea to pull of this sort of wardrobe choice. Ignore the looks walking down the street in a Betty Francis outfit, everyone loves to dress up and Halloween shouldn’t be the only time you get to do it!

It Helped Me Pass

I’m going to flat out say it. Half of the marketing books I was required to order—books I never ended up reading unless professors threatened us with weekly quizzes—sat on my desk, neglected and dusty. I didn’t start watching Mad Men until the end of freshman year of college. By that time, the show had been a hit for three years. But I couldn’t ask for a better time to start following it. Three-hour lectures on how to communicate effectively with your target audience, doing SWOT analyses and finding a way to brand your image comes in through one ear and leaves out the other. I’m not saying professors are boring, the subject just can be dense and the attention span of a human is 45 minutes, so you can’t blame us for feeling a little dazed and numb after three hours have passed by. I made up my lack of attention in class when I bought my Netflix subscription and watched it all unfold before my eyes. Every pitch and every client dilemma—it is all there in those episodes. It was like having an internship without getting out of bed. A shot out to the boys who handle accounts (that’s you Pete Campbell, you sly dog) for teaching me all about budgets because clearly, numbers aren’t my thing. I wonder if AMC is willing to hash out diplomas and if those would be legitimate when applying for a job at Ogilvy & Mather…?

It Taught Me To Drink

Never would have picked up a glass of whiskey without the help of Don Draper. You wouldn’t understand abusive alcohol consumption until you’ve seen the men and woman (Peggy) of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Time doesn’t seem to matter—whether it’s a glass of champagne in the morning to celebrate landing Mohawk Airlines, six martinis during a client luncheon at 1 p.m., or a neat whiskey (followed by a pack of cigarettes) after lunch. I’m happy to say the show has not encouraged me to pick up smoking, but it has taught me to appreciate an old fashioned like no tomorrow. I’ve come to almost prefer savoring a drink whenever I’m out then shot-gunning a beer. Jon Hamm looks too irresistible sipping his elixir of life. Luckily, I have not acquired an alcoholic dependency but I recently spoke to other Mad Men fans at a premiere party who have admitted to reaching for a drink (or cigarette) every time one of the characters drink/smoke in the show. Psychological advertising or what?