Sometimes you see a TV show and know it is entertainment, and sometimes you see real life, your life, all over again. I’m talking about the TV series Mad Men, which depicts Madison Avenue in the late 60’s or early 70’s! It is in many cases real life true to the core life in the advertising world, as I knew it.
Some of it is excessive, the drinking wasn’t that often, but it was there. Everybody lit up; affairs were going on in the broom closets and under the desks just like they are in the show. I was a young cub designer then, learning my craft, and the business of advertising. It seemed people were constantly selling sometimes, and usually it was themselves, both creatively and physically.
I recall one vice president, a brother-in-law of the owner of the company, asleep at his desk after lunch, an empty vodka glass drained moments before. This was after a 3 or 4-hour lunch, mostly liquid!
There was an innocence connected to it all, in spite of the goings on that occurred. The young people like myself were too busy trying to make an impression, learn and deal with this aggressive and exciting world. Making a presentation for the first time was scary, speaking before a room filled with seasoned pros was heart stopping, especially as you gauged their reaction to what you just presented. I was often awed and overcome by meeting people like the Postmaster General of the US, or Alexis Smith, or Ava Gabor!
It was the best of times professionally, people expected you to make mistakes, and if you didn’t, you weren’t learning and taking chances. Those are two ingredients one needs too succeed in that business.
Of course lunch was very important. You had to have business lunches, they were important mainstays in the finally deal, or the promise of more challenges from a client. Working with the big names in American industry floored me. Here I was a kid from a small town on Long Island working high up in a corner office, sitting over looking all of Manhattan, doing something I love, and being paid for it! Then going to lunch and watching and learning how to structure an agreement with American Airlines, Ford, the Postal Service, or Lufthansa Airlines! Fancy restaurants, fancy people, dressed in a suit, and thinking: “If my friends could see me now!”