Mad Men (2007–2015)

“Mad Men” paid incredible attention to detail in the story of an ad agency in the 1960’s – when office supplies included pads, pencils, bourbon, and gin.

Will Rogers famously said:

“Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don’t have for something they don’t need.”

And yet, look around your house, look in the mirror, look out the window as you drive around — it’s fair to say advertising has played no small part in shaping who we are and the world we live in.

In Mad Men, despite the boozing, smoking, womanizing, lying, cheating etc. you have to love the way it re-creates another time and place. I believe the show succeeded because of its multi-year storyline, the attention to detail in everything and everyone seen on camera, and the way products being pitched were intertwined with the tectonic cultural shifts in society occurring during this era. An additional hook for people my age is that a lot of us remember these (or similar) ad campaigns. 

In this clip, some beleaguered tobacco execs come to the ad agency. hoping for a solution to their problem: how do you differentiate brands whose products are basically the same and, by the way, the products themselves are now recognized as a health risk? Well, Pete Campbell has an answer … after which alpha male Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm) has to step in and save the day.

Personal connection #1: I met Jon Hamm (shown below) in 2014 at another fundraising event for Senator Franken. In real life he is soft-spoken, humorous, thoughtful, and humble — the polar opposite of Don.

Personal connection #2: Actor Vincent Kartheiser (who plays Pete Campbell – the young ad exec offering a “solution” for the tobacco execs) is from Apple Valley, Minnesota. Although I have not met him I have met his sister Elise (above), a fine classical pianist who also lives in this area.

Jon Hamm, dog, Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, Elise Kartheiser Bombaro
Left photo: Jon Hamm, the dog owned by hosts Sam and Sylvia Kaplan, Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar
Right photo: Elise Kartheiser Bombaro

Local connection: the Minneapolis Star-Tribune featured a marvelous article on people in the ad business here in the Twin Cities reflecting on the show vis-à-vis their own experiences during the same period.