2/15/2012 9:09 PM
By Matt White, White+Partners
The "depression" years followed by the "war" years had created the perfect backdrop for the "let's have some fun years." That was the 60's, or at least the early 60's. Americans were young, we had money and our lust for material goods was being fueled by men who were only too happy to make these new products seem essential to our everyday lives.
My father (shown in center of photo above) opened his agency in the early 60's - the same time period as the acclaimed Mad Men show. What I observed growing up was a parade of wildly talented, charismatic people, absolutely thrilled, if not a little surprised, to be earning such good livings riding the coattails of America's consumer revolution.
No longer did creative types have to relegate their passions to the status of avocation; writers, designers and artists were now highly prized on the open market. As their power and influence grew, so did their salaries. And it seemed they were laughing and cavorting all the way to the bank. These folks were having the time of their lives and it showed in everything they did.
One of my most prized possessions is a black and white portrait of my father and his fellow partners shot circa 1964. They all look very serious; very Sterling-Cooper. But did they deserve the moniker Mad Men? Not the ones I knew. They weren't angry or crazy; they were excited to impact our culture with their creative concepts and celebrate with them with a martini lunch.
With the arrival of Bill Bernbach, and his art of persuasion approach, advertising's creative renaissance hit warp speed. The status of "ad man" had reached mythic proportions, almost on par with the cowboy and the fighter pilot. The perfect hybrid of show business personality and shrewd business strategist, the ad man became something of a cult hero. Movies and TV shows paid homage to Madison Avenue. Universities quickly developed curricula to prepare America's best and brightest for the profession.
Naturally, it was unthinkable for me to want anything other than to follow in my father's footsteps. Little did I know the shutter had already flashed on this particular snapshot of time.
As with any novelty, America predictably began to lose its fascination with advertising and ad men. When I began my career, the Apple "1984" spot had proven that advertising's creative renaissance still had fuel in its tank. But the glamour, the allure, indeed the sex appeal of the profession, they had all started to wane.
As I look back on my time in advertising - the early 80's till now - it has been exciting and certainly enough fun that I hesitate to use the term "work" to describe it. But I think I speak for many of my generation when I submit that we are in fact far more deserving of the prestigious title "Mad Men."
You see, we are all more than a little angry we missed those golden years of our chosen profession.
Matt White is Chairman/CEO, White+Partners
2 comments so far...
By Erin McGee on
2/16/2012 8:51 PM
Re: "Mad I Missed It"
Great article, Matt!
By Don Draper on
2/29/2012 4:15 PM
Re: "Mad I Missed It"
The "Mad" in Mad Men does not refer to anyone being angry or crazy. The "Mad" is short for Madison; as in Madison Avenue.