Friends have been telling me for years that all copywriters and marketers should watch the Mad Men series at least once in their lives. Not for the anticlimactic story arcs or the free-loving nostalgia of the 1960s, but for educational purposes.
And they were right! The show takes place during the golden age of advertising in the 1960s in the States, and not only does it provide a great history lesson on how advertising, marketing and PR evolved, but it also gives out useful real-life tips and examples of great ad copy.
I just finished watching the series, and I must say that I enjoyed all those ad copywriting insights and tricks subtly sprinkled over each season. Having said that however, I did expected more marketing tips and examples, even though they were indeed invaluable, to be fair.
I loved the David Ogilvy references, the historical accuracy of milestone events, the retro cars and the gorgeous 1960s women's hairdos.
What blew my mind was a scene where Don Draper asserted that sex didn't really sell. This came up when hotshot copywriter newbie Peggy Olsen presented an airline ad idea that focused on the sex appeal of a flight attendant. Don was skeptical, and called her out on her cliché, suggesting that using sex in advertising was lazy, cheap, and not as relatable as people thought (other that turning heads for a split second).
Don proceeded to explain that what really worked in advertising was relatability and emotions deeper than carnal desires. And his idea was [spoiler warning!] to instead show in the ad a family welcoming the father after a flight, with one of the children saying, “What did you bring me, daddy?”
Genius copywriting! That kind of relatability makes a much deeper impact than what Peggy had originally thought.
Other elements of the series that resonated with me as a copywriter were the strenuous but necessary back-and-forth with clients, the fact that good ad ideas sometimes come to you when you're out drinking, and that writing is actually very hard and lonely, without too many people knowing that that's the case.
Now I am left wondering which series to start watching next...