The creative revolution in advertising, which we see Don Draper fighting so fiercely in "Mad Men", had an historian. He was copywriter Jerry Della Femina, who described the seventies as "bringing chaos out of order".
It was about time. The preppy ad business, filled with repp ties from all the best Eastern schools, suddenly changed to "Dress British, Think Yiddish". The people who were stereotyped, Italian art directors and Jewish copywriters, made it happen.
Della Femina describes the big, establishment ad agencies of that day as structures of fear, constantly in danger. The buttoned-down executives were completely out of touch with the creative people. "Advertising is the only business in the world that takes on the lamed, the drunks, the potheads, and the wierdos, " he wrote. He was referring to us creatives who wanted freedom to dress as we wanted and do what we did best. The opposition was formidable.
George Lois, at the time becoming a nortorious art director, put it this way: "If you're not a bad boy, if you're not a big pain in the ass, then what you are is some mush, in this business." Lois was enraged. "Advertising, an art, is constantly besieged and compromised by logicians and technocrats, the scientists of our profession who wildly miss the main point of everything we do. The main point of advertising, after all, is advertising."
For us in creative departments, it was as simple as that.
Before the creative revolution, we'd go to meetings, watch an account exec present our work, get a polite thank you, and be dismissed, to wait a couple of weeks for a memo on the results. "The client wants these changes. Please have them back by Tuesday. We have a meeting Friday."
All we were really demanding were adult privileges. We got them because of a quiet, gentle New Yorker with rosy cheeks who looked like a pediatrician. His name was Bill Bernbach and his new agency did the early Volkswagen ads. They treated readers as smart, thinking people with senses of humor. We all cheered. And for the first time, ad writers and art directors became stars instead of "the factory".
You can watch some of that happen on "Mad Men". Ask me nicely, and I'll show you the scars.