'Utterly Bored': What Adland Said About the New Series 'Mad Men'
"Mad Men" creator Matt Weiner is a former writer for "The Sopranos" with zero ad experience, and he's depicting advertising in its cigarette-hazed '60s heyday. We asked a bunch of today's marketing mavens what they thought of the much-publicized new drama.
George Lois, founder, Lois USA:
"It has nothing to do with the creative evolution. Guys like me and other guys changed the goddamned world. They're doing a 'Man in a Gray Flannel Suit' extension, getting accounts by getting laid, secretary getting laid, secretary screwing a guy. It was really obnoxious, the whole thing. I guess the world can watch it and say, 'That's exciting; that's wild.' But I was throwing up watching it. I kept moaning."
Bob Jeffrey, chairman-CEO, WPP Group's JWT:
"It shows how really dramatically different the business is. Today we're in 90% to 95% open offices. When you don't have an office, I don't think you are going to be napping anywhere after several martinis."
Troy Torrison, VP-creative director, WPP Group's Grey Worldwide:
"I watched it on my DVR last night and zapped the commercials. I think it did a better job of accurately capturing the era (the smoking, sexism, sense of entitlement, etc.) than it did at portraying 'the work'. But then, showing how slogans like 'It's Toasted!' were coined would bore everyone silly. I'm glad the show is so entertaining. But it won't do much for our profession's battered reputation as a bunch of overpaid B.S. artists."
Linda Sawyer, CEO, Interpublic Group's Deutsch:
"I was utterly bored. If you are going to stereotype a stereotype, at least it should be done with irreverence and portray superficiality with depth."
George Parker, from his blog, AdScam:
"My biggest problem is with the writing. Yes, it's written to show that all the male characters are testosterone-filled egomaniacs and the women are raging nymphomaniacs. ... But the f---ing words are wrong. ... In the scene where Don has taken the retail lady to a bar to apologize, he delivers a series of really limp-dick lines, culminating in ... 'Love is a word invented by guys like me to sell nylons!' Oh f---ing please, even when I was a snot-nose kid of 26 in my first Mad Ave. agency job, I could think up better lines than that to pull chicks."
Michael Krebs, ad-sales director, Salon.com:
"'Tobacco is toasted.' A simple enough slogan, but one that represents the dissolution of an era and the birth of the modern, theme-oriented advertising that would reshape our industry. The pitch: Advertising is about happiness. We learn this, and yet we know that we are going to watch our handsome protagonist get disassembled painfully -- and then redrawn. Mad Men is a classic, true to its 'Sopranos' foundation."
David Lubars, chairman-chief creative officer, Omnicom Group's BBDO:
"In no way does it reflect the business today. It really doesn't. In fact, in some ways it really plays into the stereotype that advertising is full of sleazebags, but if you go into most agencies you see a lot of ethics and a lot of good hard work and people telling truth, so this really plays into the whole kind of side of the industry that I personally don't see."
John Moore, senior VP-director of ideas and innovation, Interpublic Group's Mullen:
"Whether or not it was a better time, who knows? I just think people feel that this is when advertising was at its absolute zenith, and because we can't go back in a time machine, this is as close as a person can get to it. You had the Ogilvys, the Bernbachs, Burnett -- the institutions and the icons of our industry that ruled the world."
Jim Hanas, journalist at Radar:
"'The Sopranos,' by peeling away the myth of the mafia kingpin as established by 'The Godfather' and loosened up by 'Goodfellas,' made for compelling television. But the 50-year-old archetype of the adman refuses to budge, perhaps because without it there wouldn't be anything the least bit interesting about copywriters and art directors."
Richard Cline, president, Voce Communications:
"A sad but real portrayal of professional women in the 1950s. I found the show mesmerizing mostly because I was haunted by the true reality faced by our mothers, daughters or sisters in the 'golden era' of advertising. Kudos to the writing team."
Christina Kerley, from her blog:
"I thought some was well-done and some was waaay overdone. Insofar as characters, I like the lead, the lead's mistress and, most especially, the head secretary -- I'm not being politically incorrect; this was 1960, and women in administrative roles were given the title of secretary. But I can't quite transition the youngest adman's character, Pete, played by Vincent Kartheiser, from his days being Angel's son Connor."