Real London Fog Adman Not Happy About 'Mad Men'

Those Things Did Not Happen That Way

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We received the following correspondence from Richard Gilbert, whose book "Marching Up Madison Avenue," was previously written about in this space. Richard's got a bone to pick with the creators of "Mad Men" and, instead of translating his frustrations, we figured we'd just run his commentary as is. Richard writes:

"I believe, quite strongly, that Advertising Age should always advance editorial opinion, particularly when others are attempting to tell the story of our industry. The current well-acclaimed series 'Mad Men' is a perfect example.

Jon Hamm stars as Don Draper in 'Mad Men.'
Jon Hamm stars as Don Draper in 'Mad Men.' Credit: AMC
"The show is, above all, slick and professional. It would be no less slick and professional if it were also cautiously accurate. Here, I think of this season's opening episode that was devoted to London Fog. It was presented as a tired, 40-year-old company whose advertising was in trouble. Sterling Cooper was the agency and Don Draper, the creative lead in the show, has a business-saving ad for Israel and Jon Myers, owners of the company. [The ad] shows a nude model in a London Fog flashing the audience and the headline 'Limit Your Exposure.'

"London Fog was not a tired, 40-year-old brand at the time, as it was launched in 1954 when it changed from Londontown Clothes, a Baltimore men's clothing manufacturer, to its current brand title and rainwear emphasis. Gilbert Advertising handled the brand through the '60s and built a body of work that was acclaimed for its creative brilliance and brand dominance. London Fog's 65% Dacron/35% cotton fabric was the soul of the rainwear industry, and in 1960 the company was at the beginning of its advertising ascendency.

"It is also questionable whether a warm, traditional, avuncular Jewish tailor like Israel Myers would ever be seen in the halls of a Sterling Cooper. From a chemistry, personality and sociological point of view, it was an impossible match. Further, in 1960, magazine censors would never accept such a 'flashing' image. We did an ad at the time for After Six Formals with a model unfurling the bow tie of a male model under the headline, 'The next affair you have, make it formal.' The New Yorker accepted the ad, but the woman's hand had to go.

"The show's producers claim that they did meticulous research, and they obviously did -- on girdles, cigarettes, clothing, furnishings, art work, etc. But they seem to have done little or none on advertising for an advertising-themed show.

"All our ads were available, many in art-director annual collections. My memoir, 'Marching Up Madison Avenue,' was also in print [and contained] a lengthy chapter on the history of London Fog and its advertising. It is also personally depressing to hear from some of the incredible young talents who worked for me asking, 'Do they have a right to do this?'

"Even more shameful is that 'Mad Men' concentrates on a decaying era of American advertising at a time when we were actually experiencing a great creative revolution led by the incomparable Doyle Dane Bernbach. The industry also benefited from an exciting infusion of new talent with Jewish writers and Italian art directors bringing refreshing humor, warmth, irreverence, entertainment and believability to the printed page and TV screen. 'Mad Men,' in truth, is locked in the '50s, and by the early '60s, the men portrayed were dinosaurs on their way to extinction.

"But give Matthew Weiner and his Emmy-award-winning writers credit. They're turning those dinosaurs into rock stars."

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