My father opened his agency Nolan, Duffy and White in 1964—the same time period as the acclaimed Mad Men show. What I observed growing up was a parade of wildly talented, charismatic people, absolutely thrilled and committed to the art of their craft. Creating messaging that helped their clients sell their products and services in new and unique ways.
One of my most prized possessions is a black and white portrait of my father and his fellow partners shot circa 1964. They all look very serious; very Sterling-Cooper. But did they deserve the moniker Mad Men? Not the ones I knew. They weren’t angry or crazy; they were excited to impact our culture with their creative concepts and then maybe celebrate with them with a martini lunch.
With the arrival of Bill Bernbach, and his art of persuasion approach, advertising’s creative renaissance hit warp speed. The status of “ad man” had reached mythic proportions, almost on par with the cowboy and the fighter pilot. The perfect hybrid of show business personality and shrewd business strategist, the ad man became something of a cult hero. Movies and TV shows paid homage to Madison Avenue. Universities quickly developed curricula to prepare America’s best and brightest for the profession.
Naturally, it was unthinkable for me to want anything other than to follow in my father’s footsteps. Little did I know the shutter had already flashed on this particular snapshot of time.
As with any novelty, America predictably began to lose its fascination with advertising and ad men. When I began my career, the Apple 1984 spot had proven that advertising’s creative renaissance still had fuel in its tank. But the seat at the corporate board room table as the CEO’s trusted confidante was being eroded by “Management Consultants.” The glamour, the allure, indeed the sex appeal of the profession, was being replaced by bean counters and change management experts.
I do believe that with advent of new and emerging media that the power of advertising and the ad man is having a rebirth. While the mediums we communicate with are changing the value of the idea is more important than ever.
As the Son of A Madman I will try with this blog to identify trends, insights and powerful ideas that are returning advertising to its Golden Age.