I don’t watch a lot of television beyond the odd HBO drama, but “Mad Men” is the real thing, more an epic mini-series than a cable drama. The sense of time a place – 60’s Madison Avenue – is about as authentic as anything since the real thing, except that the real thing was never captured in such in such vivid colorful honesty. This is a time where cigarette smoke hangs almost romantically amongst the starless but impeccable cast. A place where the midday drinks and bottles are not hidden in desk drawers and consumed behind locked doors, but are accepted and even expected as part of the program, a perk of the trade.
Long gone are the days when advertsing was glamorous, when pretty pictures and perfect words accountable to no one except television coverage and heads of companies who look at the work as art, or at least the product of confident salesmenship. Each character represents a product of a distant dream. This is a time where agenecy men wore slick suits, and even slicker hair, where hipsterism and $200 jeans were not part of the program. Back then women were secretaries and minorities ran the elevators, not the accounts. This is a microscope help up industry that no longer resembles itself. Sure there is creativity but it is of another sort.
Today in an era of “accountable marketing” and “measurable ROI,” where pitches are orchestrated with elaborate powerpoint slides, and decisions are made with analytic projections of efficiently delivered impressions, advertsing is a science and not an art. “Mad Men” is reminder of how far we have come, but as much as we can see this as progress, it sure makes you long for the old days.