TV and the Ad Business: Rare Bedfellows? Not Right Now
OK, I must admit it. I watch a lot of TV. Probably too much if I let myself think too hard on the subject. Lately, though, I’m getting a bit bored with the whole “CSI”/”Law and Order” police procedural genre and have been looking to branch out.
By accident, I found a new show on AMC (American Movie Classics) called “Mad Men” (Thursdays at 10 p.m.). If you haven’t heard of it, check it out immediately.
In a nutshell, its about the advertising business, Madison Avenue ad men specifically, and is set in 1960 — arguably one of the most important eras of our time. A time when people still dressed and acted with formality, and the ad business was becoming (thanks primarily to TV) the most influential industry on the planet.
Every episode to me is a romantic journey back in time to a world vastly different than the one we know today. Political correctness didn’t exist yet. People drank hard liquor and smoked in their offices (try pulling a bottle of alcohol out of your office drawer today and watch peoples reactions). The show sometimes is blatantly sexist, racist and anti-Semitic (a bit too much if you ask me). But it portrays a picture-perfect snapshot of the ad business, the people who chose it as a career and their clients.
While the show isn’t about direct marketing per se (it mentioned direct marketing in one episode, and just hearing those two words almost made me drool), it is about the roots of our industry, which I find fascinating.
If you ask me, there should be more shows on TV about our industry. Beyond Darrin Stephens in “Bewitched,” Michael Steadman’s ad agency in “thirtysomething” in the ’80s and Elaine’s brief job in “Seinfeld” as J. Peterman’s right hand, I’m drawing a blank trying to come up with shows where the central characters were in the business of marketing products.