Mad Men


The second series has finally arrived in the Nordic region. Stale news, I expect, for many viewers on the cutting edge, but hey! I’m eating it like the best mature cheddar, with relish. And I have my reasons, which I think Christina might recognise.

40 Berkeley Square, JWT, 1954

In the late ’60s I was a rookie client of J Walter Thompson, Ogilvy and Mather and Garland Compton; a couple of years later of Masius Wynne Williams – all four were mainstream, full-service ad agencies in London, with the style and culture parodied so accurately in Mad Men, even though the TV stories are about Madison Avenue, the centre of the US ad world. TV advertising was still an under-developed phenomenon, dominated by the big brands who maintained close parallel relationships with the few commercial TV companies. Client entertainment extended to hedonistic extremes, such that my colleague, the media buyer claimed with justification that he was the best fed man in London, industry bashes typically occupied the Dorchester and Lords, Twickenham and Ascot were de rigueur.

That business world was chauvinistic to a fault and employed men with ‘Eton and Guards’ credentials, who perhaps surprisingly managed to mesh in with their Madison Ave counterparts as the industry expended across the globe.

Of course, it has all changed. Full service died the death and zero-based cost efficiency became the watch-word. Algorithms rule media plans, social media loom large in branding. So excuse my nostalgia, as  I remember spoof lines like ‘From those wonderful people who brought you Pearl Harbour’ to promote the burgeoning Japanese presence in the USA.


Author: janus

I'm back......and front - in sunny Sussex-by-the-sea

13 thoughts on “Mad Men”

  1. Hunnish Netflix is a pitiful joke with little of interest. The Britannic and Nordic versions are infinitely superior. Alas and alack… A good read, thanks you!

    PS: Viking-type chum specialised in marketing at Copenhagen Business School. I will forward this to him.

  2. It was interesting that they might well have swept the board of consumer accounts but could never touch niche/technical subjects like engineering and commodities.. Several tried to have my USA Embassy Trade assoc accounts away but could never touch the work on design or price and were always shown the door. I did my time with the big boys, bloody cosmetics, what a crashing bore. Talk about Jesus in a jar!

    And, sorry, but I hated madmen and never watched it.

  3. CO, I understand your view – the culture was far from palatable for women in particular and geared unashamedly to pleasuring the decision-makers in consumer marketing firms. The TV series catches the mood perfectly.

  4. Yes, it works on the gullible and naive!
    But I suspect anyone who has ever worked in the industry becomes incredibly resistant. I never buy or shop at anywhere that spends fancy money on advertising. Obviously they are overcharging to have the surplus loot to hand!

  5. We-e-ell……..yes. I find myself asking myself what the brand strategies are! It’s not about gullibility, it’s about the environmental wallpaper. People become familiar with names that turn up regularly and believe they are friendly. So they have a look at their products instore and try them. Unfamiliar names are treated with suspicion.

  6. I might try them once if they are food items, after all the dogs will generally finish things up!
    On more durable goods and clothing, I never buy cheap, always on the top side of middling price, one tends to get more durability and better wearability long term. I HATE having to buy anything twice unless a good twenty years has elapsed! Top of the range is generally gadgety and gimmicky and high fashion and cheap is just crap that lasts one day longer than the guarantee.
    OR CHINESE! Fatwah territory! I don’t do slant and declare so loudly in public.
    Names tend to be secondary to the above parameters.

    I dislike shopping nearly as much as travelling! Except for food. I love food shops where I can calculate to the penny how much I have saved by growing and eating my own veg. It runs currently at about $40/week!
    Still eating fresh onions, shallots, sprouts and leeks and I look at the prices and am aghast delightedly. One of my chief amusements.

    In a few weeks I shall have the pleasure of going to all the garden centres and box stores and gaping and
    aghasting at the prices of veg and flower starts. I then go home and work out how much my greenhouse is worth if I had had to buy them instead of growing from seed. Even in an 8×6 it comes out to over $500 per year! Allowing for price of seed and power. It may be small minded but utterly delectable entertainment that offsets travel to Wales!
    Can you imagine $4 for one tomato plant? Falls strictly into the “fuck my old boots”territory and over my dead body! (And probably end up with half a dozen wizened unripened fruit which one could have bought gold plated and shipped from Harrods cheaper!

    All in all not everyone sets familiar names as their chief parameter. But I agree, most do. It is interesting to note that people who move from country to country have to sift out new brands all the time. The only lady I know who shops like me and gardens like me is a German national married to a Yank.

  7. Marketing has had to evolve in the past twenty years as generations have grown increasingly immune to ad campaigns. Ad saturation has led people to tune them out — in urban areas people see thousands of ads a day. “Relationship marketing” is the most common now. That is, companies establish long-term relationships with consumers with marketing efforts focused on those most likely to be profitable.

  8. CT, there of course significant differences between higher-ticket and lower-ticket markets, durables and fast-moving consumer goods. Relationship strategies favour the durables; mass media the FMCGs.

  9. It goes without saying that the Internet has altered the balance between advertiser, client and customer considerably.

  10. Janus: Of course, and business-to-business relationships are far easier. Far larger amounts are exchanged and one works with people who understand how “the system” operates. Social media has to a large extend supplanted traditional mass media advertising. Consumers largely a more “personal” approach to shopping — many have developed a sense of entitlement and expect a company to work with them, even though their account isn’t all that important. As a result, there are quite a few automated programmes and outsourced customer service centres. This also allows for companies to draw from a pool of experienced marketing staff.

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