On Sunday, May 17th the hit AMC TV show “Mad Men” concluded its seventh and final season. The retro drama’s popularity and critical acclaim has ushered attention toward the corporate advertising culture of the 1960’s. Unlike “Bewitched” and “Melrose Place” –TV shows that look to the ad agency as a comical trope—“Mad Men” delivers a realistic perspective of the dynamic era that shaped the business. “Many people in advertising see the 60’s as the golden age for the industry,” explains Harrison Jacobs from Business Insider, “Agencies ditched long paragraphs of copy for powerful visuals, snappy slogans, and humor.” In addition, the show’s narrative timeline aligns with the rise of media buying: a practice that originated when agencies began to purchase short advertising slots from TV networks.
“Mad Men” is known for weaving real-life brand names within its fictional storyline. Lucky Strike, Clearasil, Jaguar and Kodak are amongst the inventory of recognizable brands that make cameos on the Sterling Cooper Draper Price soundstage. Notably, the show uses the identifiable brand as a plot-driving tool that shapes the narrative—versus a mechanism of product placement that is commonly seen on prime time television.
“Mad Men” has sparked a myriad of discussion and personal reflection on agency life within advertising world. To learn more about the real-life mad men and the era that shaped advertising culture check out The Real Mad Men Diaries; an online docuseries produced by Ad Age that chronicles the lives of ad execs from the 60s and 70s.