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March 30, 2017

Mad (wo)Men

By Jillian Schwartz

The good ol’ days. Is there such a thing? I like to think there was a different sort of peace before hashtags and online profiles. Recently, I found myself immersed in the show Mad Men, which takes place primarily in the 1960s and was surprisingly nostalgic, given I wasn’t even alive during that time.

After binging on all 8 seasons, I found myself comparing the way they work, seal deals and celebrate, to what it’s really like today. Of course, the added factor is that it is a TV show but I let my mind wander anyway.

This year, Mad Men is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the premiere. As a nod to the show, Heinz is using the promotional materials from the show in their own advertisements today. I wondered, “If an ad from a show based on the 1960s still holds up, how would some of the other things from the show compare to today?”

I decided to take a few of the situations from the show and compare it to how I think those situations would play out in this day and age:

How it goes on Mad Men: Call a company (any company) and get put right through to the CEO/decision maker.
How it would probably go for me: I make a call and get the automated voice menu. Patiently listen to options 1-9 without finding what I’m looking for; push 0 for a real person. Get connected to Amanda in sales from the San Francisco branch. After explaining my call, get transferred 4 times and end up at the voicemail of someone who will probably never call back.

How it goes on Mad Men: Pitch an idea to a client to get their business but they’re not interested. The execs take the potential client out to an expensive restaurant that the company practically begs them to go to. They eat some shrimp cocktail, down a whiskey neat or three and the client changes their mind right there and signs a deal with the waiter’s pen.
How it would probably go for me: Talk to a client and find they’re not interested. Take them out to lunch, order some shrimp cocktail, find out they have a seafood allergy.

How it goes on Mad Men: Take a nap on the couch in a private office (for who knows how long) and no one cares.
How it would probably go for me: Decide to take a nap on my couch. Realize I don’t have a couch. Settle for a nap that is actually just my open eyes glazed over, looking into the distance for 20 seconds before I realize what I am doing and snap back to reality and the work I need to do.

How it goes on Mad Men: Client shows up in the meeting room, eats a pastry and looks at one or two print advertising concepts. The client picks one on the spot and the meeting adjourns.
How it would probably go for me: Spend weeks going back and forth about the design of a new building marketing campaign. Create several versions with different color schemes and headlines, and then present it to the client. They note that something just seems “off” but can’t put a finger on it. Switch around a few more things, incorporate their exact ideas, and present it again. They decide that they like the first version best. But only for the email marketing idea, the regular informational concept should be slightly different, they just don’t know how exactly.

How it goes on Mad Men: Sign a deal. Celebrate by asking the personal secretary to fetch the ice while others pop the top off the custom glass vodka bottle from the bar cart in someone’s giant private office. After downing that drink, head to the bar to celebrate again. Then off to dinner with steaks and more drinks.
How it would probably go for me: Sign a lease (this particular one taking 8 months to come together). Breathe a sigh of relief. Have a drink…of water. Onto the next.

So maybe my expectations for the entire 1960s era are a little glamorized from the TV show; at the end of the day, I think a some of the problems–picky clients and long work hours–are the same, but the tools we have are different.

We’ve traded typewriters for computers and cell phones (I can’t imagine life without a backspace key), secretaries for voicemails, and private couches for communal nap pods.

I think I may be able to move on from the nostalgia and be happy with the fact that we don’t celebrate by drinking straight liquor in someone’s giant corner office. I’m more of a piƱa colada person anyway.