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Mad Men as Rorschach Test: Media Execs See Only Themselves in AMC's Hit Show

Season Four of Mad Men debuted last night and the universal reaction of those close to the ad biz was: It was all about me! We learned that Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is losing clients and can't win pitches, and we learned that Don Draper likes to be slapped around by a hooker on Thanksgiving. (Hey, it's traditional!) But for the real-life folks on (or near to) Madison Avenue the important thing about the show was that the show was an important thing about them.

Ad Age was first out of the gate. While staffers at the trade mag were no doubt delighted that an entire show was premised on a profile interview it did that proved disastrous for Draper, the magazine still found something to complain about. Rance Crain wrote:

What's wrong with this picture? No. 1, we never did interviews over lunch; No. 2, we didn't take notes in shorthand; No. 3 we didn't ask cute-ass questions; and No. 4, our pictures were never bigger than our stories.
(Disclosure: I was once a managing editor at Age's rival, Adweek, and I've done all those things!) Age got a neat two-fer out of the show as the Washington Post asked Ad Age's Andrew Hampp to video-blog the show. He said he liked the way Age came off in the script because at the end, where Draper attempts to repair his ragged image, he demands to see "Bert Cooper's man at the Wall Street Journal":
They turn to the Wall Street Journal to write the puff piece, knowing that Ad Age wasn't going to do the same thing.
Yeah, right. Because Ad Age hardly ever writes puff pieces.

Elsewhere, art director George Lois took to the pages of Playboy to complain that the show didn't pay enough homage to his contribution to the creative revolution. Similarly, legend-in-his-own-lunchtime Ed McCabe took questions from N.Y. Times readers about the veracity of the show. And four guests of the WSJ (Alan Brinkley and Walter Dellinger among them) waxed lyrical about how the show reminded them of their parents.

In case you missed it, Mad Men was also about architecture, this architecture blogger reminds us; and the New York Daily News, as the NYDN reports.

I'm not innocent here. In a recent Associated Press story about ethics in the ad world, the writer used a Mad Men hook and asked me about the show. My thoughts on the AMC series were lost to posterity, however.


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