Mad About Advertising

January 31, 2009
Not Just Mad Men

Courtesy John W. Hartman Center

Inspired by the popularity of the AMC television series Mad Men, Perkins Library mounted an exhibit this fall that highlighted the real-life careers of 1960s advertising professionals. Drawing from materials in the Special Collections Library's Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, the display focused on four of the types of agency occupations depicted on the television series: copywriters, creative directors, art directors, and account executives.

Reference archivist Lynn Eaton and technical-services archivist Richard Collier collaborated on the exhibit and a slide show, which examined the similarities and differences between the real advertising world of the 1960s and its depiction on Mad Men. At the show's fictional agency, Sterling Cooper, women are mostly secretaries, although in the second season, set in 1962, the roles of women are beginning to change—one character rises from the secretary pool to become a junior account executive. Eaton notes that by the end of the 1960s, women were integral to the creative and business facets of the industry. For example, Nan Findlow held executive positions with the advertising agencies of Ross Roy and J. Walter Thompson Company before founding her own consulting agency.

The exhibit included internal memos about Wind Song perfume, ads for bathing suits and bras ("I Dreamed I Had Spring Fever in My Maidenform Bra"), and a black-and-white photo of male executives drinking and smoking at a bar—although none as dashing as Mad Men's Don Draper.