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Jul 30, 2007
Blog Post

Best Summer Reading for Marketers - 'The Ad Men and Women'

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Anne Holland, Content Director

Like nearly everyone else in the ad world, especially those us of over 40, I avidly watched the first two episodes of AMC's new Mad Men TV series.

As its 'Making Of' trailer on iTunes explains, the show's creators leapt through hoops to make sure the show accurately depicts Madison Avenue ad agencies in the spring of 1960. I was bemused by the show's relentless in-office smoking, drinking, tie-wearing and, of course, rampant sexism.

However, a mistake in the first episode broke that spell for me.

To illustrate how hung over the agency's creative director is, we're shown a close-up of two Alka-Seltzers fizzing away in a glass of water. The image works great, except for the fact that the idea of using two Alka-Seltzers (instead of just one) wasn't invented until about five years later, in an ad campaign during the mid-sixties.

Plus, the creative team behind that breakthrough (which wound up nearly doubling its client's sales), was lead by not by an ad man, but by an ad woman--Mary Wells.

Mary Wells wasn't the sole top woman in the field back then. In fact, nine out of the 54 greatest advertising creatives of the past featured in 'The Ad Men and Women', a fascinating collection of bios edited by Professor Edd Applegate, are women.

While watching 'Mad Men' is an entertaining way to spend an evening, if you're looking for inspiration from ad pros of the past, I suggest you get yourself a copy of 'The Ad Men and Women' instead.

Discover how dead-honest copy (to the point of calling your product "rotten") can dramatically raise response; how to rename a product to increase sales (example: war bonds vs. peace bonds); how to use a silly contest for seriously big publicity (example: Scientific American's paper airplane fly-off in New York), etc.

Plus, you'll find this book insightful if you're considering your own career trajectory. Should you move from client-side to agency-side (or vice versa?) Should you join a bigger name firm? Should you defect to launch your own ad shop?

If you're marketing for any of the brands named in this volume, from Alka-Seltzer to the YWCA, you'll learn how they became so famous in the first place, leading perhaps to an idea to sustain that fame in the 21st century.

Very few of us have any sense of ad history outside of dancing cigarette boxes on 1950s TV shows that we've seen in movies. So, it's easy to presume marketers of yesteryear were a bit amateurish and dumb. As this book proves, nothing could be further from the truth.

We, marketers of 2007, have enormous shoes to fill -- and it just so happens many of them were high heels.
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Comments about this Blog Entry

Jul 30, 2007 - Jacqueline Dooley of says:
How does 9 out of 54 constitute many? That's not even 17%. I guess it's much better than my expectation, which would be zero out of 54. I think it's important to accept that this was a very male dominated industry and, while that's changing, There are still more men than women in the industry, particularly at the top. Mad Men provides an interesting perspective on an industry where a lot has changed. Still, we have a long way to go.

Jul 30, 2007 - Dean Fox of ScreenAngels Networks LLC says:
I was excited about the buzz surrounding Madmen, too, but except for very brief moments that actually express something true about the advertising business, the show doesn't live up to the hype. I began my career in advertising in the mid-Seventies, learning everything from the '50's and '60's guys. There's a lot of dramatic material to be mined from that era, but this show is so obsessed with the smoking, drinking and sexism of the period that there's not much of anything else. I'm not surprised that the concept came from a former Sopranos writer. This show resembles a ripoff of David Chase's soap opera plotlines. Not good.

Aug 05, 2007 - Bob Hoffman of says:
For great reading about the ad business, I suggest "Then We Came to the End" by Joshue Ferris.

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