Why the Mad Man Is a Dying Breed

Enough With the Glorification of the Adman

By Published on .

Having recently escaped from Gawker and landed at The Observer, Doree Shafrir takes a look at the demise of the Madison Avenue "personality," that rogue of yore. This is yet another piece spun off of AMC's "Mad Men," of which I have yet to see one minute. But I did see "Cavemen" last night! (I'll let Brian Steinberg handle that disaster.)

Shafrir's intent is not only to rehash the Three-Martini-Lunch era. (And if nothing else, you should stick with the story for the last two paragraphs. Yowch!) She's on the hunt for the adman's mojo and even finds some remnants of it here and there. She also examines some of the business reasons the mojo went the way of the dodo bird.

But we all know what really happened. Women moved in. And once they moved in, admen had to at least pretend to act like civlized human beings rather than frat boys with expense accounts. And -- I say this as a right-leaning, hard-drinking, Southern flirt -- thank God for progress.

Sure, dress up the old days in period clothing, toss in some cigarette smoke for mood and some clinking high-ball glasses and it seems sexy on TV. As have the others, Shafrir touches on the fact that it wasn't exactly sexy for women and minorities. Some of these admen whining about the loss of the good old days sound vaguely like the sort of guys bemoaning the integration of public schools and country clubs. "Things were much better before THEY came along and ruined all the fun."

That said, the agency world hasn't progressed as far as it would like us to believe. Of course, it's better now than it was back then. Hell, even the coal-mining industry can make that claim. But you probably don't have to look all that hard to discover a young woman or two in the current ad-agency world who's done her time in a modern-day boys' club. (And you'd still have to look pretty hard to find more than a handful of black men in the upper reaches of general-market agencies.)

I can hear the protests now: Look at the work, man! Look at what such drink-fueled bad-boy behavior produced!

From where I'm standing, all this talk about excess in the name of creativity is simply rationalization. The old guard seems at best like the high-school quarterback who won't shut up about the big game and at worst like a whacked-out religious cult member longing for some golden era that never really existed. I'd bet a month's salary that an analysis of all the ads available back then and all the ads available today would yield the same crap-to-genius ratio.

Besides, it's not all bad for the young man (or woman) with a mind for adventure. Says one 25-year-old former account exec in Shafrir's piece: "I once got ass on our conference table at 2 a.m. after I stuffed press kits by myself all night. There was also a lot of coke -- I once saw an intern cutting lines in the bathroom!"

He's got more to say in the story. So go check it out.
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