Mad Men

You are currently browsing articles tagged Mad Men.

A Mad Men partner meeting that isn't going well.

A Mad Men partner meeting that isn't going well.

This agency blog was started with a note of appreciation to Matthew Weiner for doing such an amazing job of capturing the highs the ad business can deliver when things are going well — there is nothing like the buzz you get from a great campaign coming together, a perfect blend of strategic and creative. As season five of Mad Men winds down to a final episode next week, Weiner and company have achieved so much more. I can’t say the series is hitting its stride, because from the very first episode, it took off like a rabbit and lapped other dramatic shows long ago. It’s just that in the last two weeks, Mad Men has plumbed the moral (or amoral) depths of business in general, and advertising specifically. It has taken its two central female characters and shown how women are too often treated and what they have to do to succeed. It has delivered jolts worthy of Shakespearean tragedy.

For every guy who has ever wanted to be Don Draper, you might soon need a liver transplant. Alcohol can only begin to numb the pain when you get what you want — a car account (Jaguar) — only to know that it likely wasn’t the creative that won the day. Also that you have told one of the guys with his name on the door (Lane Pryce) to tender his resignation on Monday morning following a forged check and embezzlement, only to have him make another type of exit. And you have watched as Peggy, the woman you’ve mentored (but mistreated) through five seasons has finally flown to another agency, while Joan, the office manager who has helped keep the agency together, has unexpectedly become a partner, by accepting an offer that would help land the agency its biggest account while sending its moral compass spinning in all directions.

Joan helps the agency land Jaguar for a big price.

Joan helps the agency land Jaguar for a big price.

I have no idea what next week’s season five final episode holds, but I expect it to resonate just like every other before it. Weiner has created an incredibly rich tapestry about advertising’s golden age, the tumultuous sixties, and the changing dynamics between men and women, as well as family and work. Bravo!

Tags: , , , ,

One of the many pleasures of watching Mad Men is to get a glimpse of advertising reflective of the era’s very different but not so long ago societal viewpoints. Call it un-PC, non-diversity-trained, unsustainable, pre-regulatory, “anything goes” pitching (or sexist, racist, homophobic, capitalistic, every other variety of irresponsible or unenlightened), but it is never less than fascinating of how times have changed and changed quickly.

I was reminded of this when I came across this link on Philly.com to a collection of 72 print ads from Inquirer archives from the 1950s. It is a trip down Memory Lane just to be reminded of all the old local retailers, from John Wanamaker, to Gimbels, to Lit Brothers.

Sugar Crisp was once golden (and now renamed that) at Post. Now, it is the S word.

Sugar Crisp was once golden (and now renamed that) at Post. Now, it is the S word.

This morning, I had a bowl of Post Golden Crisp, but this ad is a reminder that Sugar was once not a dirty word. Poor Sugar Bear had to go into the witness protection program some time around 1995.

Meanwhile, at  local long-gone icon Horn & Hardart, before there was vending self-service, there was evidently white glove service for captains of industry.

 The lunchtime meeting of Ajax Inc.’s diversity committee will now come to order.

The lunchtime meeting of Ajax Inc.’s diversity committee will now come to order.

In terms of TV spots, Duke University Libraries holds a terrific archive of commercials produced for clients of D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles and now held in the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History collection and accessible free through ITunes University — AdViews Collection. Here is the AdViews web site.

YouTube is also a great repository of old spots that will suck you in and keep you revisiting “The Golden Age of Advertising”.  An old Bob and Ray spot for Piels Beer is a good departure point.

Finally, lots of interesting collections of old commercials are available through Amazon and eBay.

Vintage commercials collections DVDs are plentiful.

Vintage commercials collections DVDs are plentiful.

This compilation DVD of 1001 Classic Commercials kept me entertained in my man cave throughout the holidays last year. Down there, you can still swill beer, play with GI Joes, crack questionable jokes, and ogle January Jones and other Barbie-like women.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Nerf arsenal in Red Tettemer's interactive department.

Nerf arsenal in Red Tettemer's interactive department.

Today, something very exciting happened. Advertising Age gave national exposure to a Philadelphia shop for the first time in a long time and in a very big way. Not since Gyro tilted the Philadelphia advertising world off its axis has an agency in this town captured national exposure in the long shadows of Madison Avenue. Advertising Age’s new Agency Digs video feature visited Red Tettemer’s awesomely creative workspace. I encourage you to do the same. Not because I like to give exposure to competing agencies in the same metropolitan area, but because you’ll get a fascinating tour of a truly unique and creative enterprise.

Red Tettemer has come a long way from an old house in Narberth to the top two floors of the PNB ( former Philadelphia National Bank) building, complete with rooftop access. On those two floors is an agency workspace that is part Dave and Busters, part CBGB’s, part South Street head shop, part pet shop, and part Las Vegas lounge — in other words, every square inch seems to be conceived to spark the imagination, the funny bone, and the creative drive. It’s the coolest agency workspace I’ve ever seen.

From large to small, most of the agencies, I’ve visited over the years would not find themselves featured in Architectural Digest. Ours included. But these days especially, when great work is being produced on iPads in crowded Starbucks, the digital landscape and end results are what clients care about. Most clients never set foot in an agency anymore. The agency’s web site is as close as they travel.

I remember an early interview at Lewis & Gilman (the mega-shop that later became a unit of Foote Cone and Belding and later Brian Tierney’s firm). There was an air of importance to the place as I sat in the waiting area with my portfolio. Early episodes of Mad Men brought back the exclusive Old Boys Network air of the place.

Later, Philadelphia advertising captured national attention again through the TV show “thirtysomething” where the main characters Michael and Elliot had their own agency and later worked for DAA. The firm’s open workspace and the indoor basketball court were patterned after the offices of California based Chiat Day.

Some of the more interesting spaces I’ve visited in recent years have been creative firms that combine video production and all things digital. Howard McCabe’s firm Blue turned a former Fairmount residence into stylish editing and animation suites and workrooms. JPL in Harrisburg took over an editing facility from Tyco and converted it into one of the Best Places to Work in PA. The other week I sat in on a social media strategy session for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society at Think Brownstone’s great open space dominated by couches and a white board, in a Conshohocken brownstone.

But as exceptional as each of these offices are, none are as mind-bending and fun-filled as Red Tettemer’s featured space. It’s a theme park for left-brained types. Congratulations to Steve Red and everyone at Red Tettemer for creating a great environment for creative to thrive.

Tags: , , , ,

Mad Men. Where some of the best ideas begin on cocktail napkins.

Mad Men. Where some of the best ideas begin on cocktail napkins.

I am enormously appreciative to Matthew Weiner, creator of Mad Men, for reminding everyone what the ad agency business was (and always should be) about. No, I am not referring to excessive drinking and office sex-capades, although that is what gets Mad Men most of the press. I mean the focus on ideas, the sparks that go off in creative sessions at the agency when Don or Peggy hit upon something so absolutely right that no one else has thought of before. And the selling of those ideas, such as The Carousel episode that ended Season One.

The Carousel

There are related moments when clients deflate some of those ideas (such as when Conrad Hilton walks out genuinely disappointed that Don didn’t take seriously his comment about having a hotel on the moon someday). Listening remains an unappreciated art.

Mad Men does a great job of underscoring for all of us still in the agency business that ideas matter above all else. A lot of descriptors get tossed around these days as marketing gets put in a blender of new technologies — traditional agency. . .interactive agency. . .SEO agency. . .social media agency. None of that matters if branding and campaigns are not grounded in well-thought-out strategy that serves as a foundation for superb creative.

There is too much reaction and over-reaction in business today and not enough thoughtful reflection and planning. Those light bulb moments require a lot of groundwork and careful nurturing. But the ideas that result often have lasting brand-defining impact and value.

It is with genuine appreciation for the importance of inspiration that prompts us at Newton Associates to launch this agency blog. We aren’t about to over-promise this will be a perpetual fountain of great ideas. But we are an opinionated bunch, passionate about advertising, so it should be a useful and interesting place to turn for commentary about getting attention, making sales, and retaining customers in a tougher-than-ever global economy.

Tags: , ,