Friday, December 2, 2011

Am I going "Mad Men"?

       I have to admit it. The "Mad Men" craze is starting to get to me.

       Last week I ducked into Banana Republic and checked out their new collection based on the TV show. It really didn't appeal to me, but I came home and dusted off a hat that's sort of a contemporary version of what I wore when I started out in the advertising business. Back then, I had to hold my hat on my head with my hand, or it would get blown across Michigan Avenue. These days, the few times I've worn it I feel like an overdressed anchorman.

       This week I dusted off the attache case I bought with my first paycheck as an intern. To buy it I had to eat macaroni for dinner every night for a month, but it was worth it. It was my official badge of being a professional.

       Yesterday I read in an advertising trade paper that one of the TV networks is trying to line up advertisers for a new reality show about how ad agencies prepare and present their "pitches" for new clients. Some agencies have already signed on; others refused. Is nothing sacred?

        Last year a TV musical show featuring jingles from commercials was tested. It featured a panel of "experts". It failed the test.

        Why all this interest in advertising all of a sudden? Doesn't everybody hate all these ads that bombard us? I guess not. Maybe it's nostalgia about the good old days, when tomorrow could be better than today, and everybody was hanging around the living room. And of course, "Mad Men" is basically a good soap opera that lets us vicariously enjoy the spoils of glamour.

        But I think it goes deeper. I think all this interest in advertising in the '60s and '70s is about a yearning for everyday heroes. There was a time in America when the glamour was on Wall Street, and students aspired to be brokers. Then it was advertising, and all the secrets of "the hidden persuaders". Later it was investigative reporting, after Watergate. Now what is it? High tech.

       Are high tech achievers our heroes, really? For all their technical and financial wizardry, they don't seem to be enjoying life, having fun, or making us envious about where they go to lunch. They probably don't even go to lunch.

       Today, even with "Mad Men", advertising doesn't have that same magic anymore, that glimmer of fabulous. Oh, well. Time to put on my hat and go to lunch.


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