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Whether you work in the industry or not, everyone seems to love AMC’s hit television show “Mad Men.” After all, the critically acclaimed drama has won 15 Emmys and four Golden Globe awards. The series has also been known for its impact on society. “Mad Men” has inspired new trends in the way people dress, drink and choose a career. A study from the International Association of Administration Professionals revealed that there has been a significant increase in the number of secretaries in recent years, which some have partly attributed to the popularity of the show.
This got me thinking about what long-term effects the show has had on the very industry that serves as the focal point of the show. How has the advertising agency been positively or negatively influenced by this hit drama? So I took a few days to look around and jot down a few of my observations.
1. Increased visibility
Prior to the show, when you told someone you worked at an “advertising agency,” they would respond with a perplexed facial expression followed by the words “what”  or “huh.” The show has helped increased awareness of the profession even though most people still might not understand exactly what goes on inside the doors of an agency. My parents just tell people I’m a Mad Man. To be honest, I’m ok with that.
2. New stereotypes
Advertising has had its fair share of stereotypes over the years. From the gentlemen’s club stereotype of the 1950s to the more modernistic work hard, party harder prejudices of the 1990s. Since the dawn of “Mad Men,” advertising agencies have been tagged with a new of stereotypes based on what is seen in the show. Day drinking, long lunches and carelessness are just a few of the stereotypes that have reappeared due to the success of “Mad Men.” For the record, some are true others are not.  I can’t give away all of our creative secrets or none of us would have any clients left on the roster.
3. Fashion flashback
The days of t-shirts and jeans at the office are over. Instead, ad execs and even creatives are taking note of Don Draper’s closet. Now agencies are flooded with tweed jackets, dress slacks and cufflinks. I have even tried to upgrade my own wardrobe so that I can look more like a Mad Man.
4. Newfound interest
Perhaps the most profound impact has been the increased interest in advertising, especially agencies. AMC has even created a spinoff reality show focused on what life is really like inside today’s ad agencies. Advertising and portfolio schools are seeing growth in enrollment, which have to be partly attributed to the public’s cult-like devotion to the show. The industry has helped respond to this newfound interest by helping to educate the public about the reality of advertising. For example, the American Association of Advertising Agencies launched Open Advertising, an online platform for people interested in advertising careers. There is no doubt that there has been a newfound interest in advertising. Thanks to the show, especially Don Draper, advertising is as hip as ever.
I am certain that “Mad Men” has had an impact on the industry in many more ways than just the three listed here. Of greater interest, though, is deciding whether the influence “Mad Men” has been positive or negative for the industry. Based on my biased observations, I believe that the show  has been one of the best things to happen to this business. “Mad Men” has served as one of the most successful advertising campaigns for the industry. The show instilled a newly found sense of pride at a time when layoffs, downsizing and closures threatened the industry we all love. So, thank you, Don, Roger, Pete, Peggy and Joan for reminding us why we continue to have a love and hate relationship with this business.

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Photo of Current360 Associate Creative Director Robert Womack

Rob Womack

If there’s anyone who can honestly say, “Been there, done that,” it’s Rob. After traveling the world for seven years in his 20’s, Rob went to LA and started working in film production. Then it was off to New York, where he learned how to program, which eventually brought him back home to Louisville to build websites. At Current360, Rob heads up our in-house production studio, creating all things digital for our clients — videos, commercials, radio spots, and a lot more. 

When he’s at home, Rob likes to create things like homemade kombucha and music.