Finding Inspiration in Mad Men

By: Alexis Clemons

The television show Mad Men only has a few episodes left before its series finale and I’ve been feeling very sentimental. As a Marketing Communications major at Emerson, I enjoy watching a show that’s centered on my favorite subject. However, Mad Men seems to have a stigma around it in the academic marketing world. I can clearly remember the first day of my Intro to Marketing Comm. class, the professor asked us all, “So how many of you are here because you’ve seen the show Mad Men?”. We all glanced around nervously. Several students raised their hands with sheepish smiles on their faces. “Well, let me remind you that Mad Men is a fictional show. Don’t be fooled by its glamour. We’re here to learn what real marketing is,” my professor replied.

He went on to admit to liking the show himself and I’ve found this to be true among most people who warn against taking Mad Men as fact. It’s hard to deny the quality of the show, yet it’s easy to scold young people against idolizing the world of Sterling Cooper. Personally, I think that students should be encouraged to be inspired by shows like Mad Men and the reality series The Pitch. Seeing their future occupations on TV can inspire marketing and advertising students and influence them in ways that real life isn’t always able to.

I didn’t decide on my major until I was a senior in high school. Previously I had considered a degree in marine biology, teaching and psychology. I didn’t want to go into college undeclared so I eventually landed on marketing. I took one class at the high school level and performed well enough to want to pursue it. I liked the idea of marketing, but I wasn’t passionate about it. It wasn’t until my freshman year of college that one night, while sitting in my dorm room, I decided to start watching the show Mad Men.

I was looking for a new show to start and with the wide world of Netflix at my disposal, I decided to see for myself what my dad, a longtime viewer, and many other fans had been talking so highly about. I quickly became obsessed. I fell in love with the characters, the historical accuracy, the storylines, and surprisingly, the work. As a student who seemed to like her major so far but wasn’t totally invested, it really propelled my interest in the world of advertising.

I loved the work that the characters got to do at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and I could suddenly see myself doing that work as well. I didn’t want to be those characters necessarily, but I was certainly inspired by what they did. I never had the opportunity to see a pitch or a client meeting in real life, and seeing it on Mad Men gave me a better understanding of what marketing and advertising professionals do. I know the world of advertising and marketing has changed drastically since the 60’s, but the show still inspired me because it gave me a glimpse of the profession I was pursuing in a glitzy, glamorous, televised way.

As long as you don’t take it as complete fact, there is no harm in enjoying the world of Mad Men. The show takes place 50 years in the past and is certainly over dramatized, but as long as you remember those facts then it seems reasonable to be inspired by what they do. The character Peggy Olsen has been a huge inspiration to me. Her determination, her creativity and her passion are all traits I aspire to have and bring to my own work. I may not be faced with breaking the glass ceiling like she had to, but the way in which she’s unafraid to speak up and refuses to be pressured by her mostly male competitors is something to look up to. Her growth from quiet secretary to head Copy Chief is immensely enjoyable to watch and I will continue to list Peggy as a personal role model.

So I ask, what’s wrong with wanting to be the next Don Draper? (That is, as long as you aspire to be him in regards to his creative and leadership talents and not his ahem other traits). Being inspired by brave, creative, or intelligent characters can be traced back to the early days of storytelling. Why should being inspired by television characters be any different? Be inspired by anything you find inspiring and Mad Men is no exception!

Interested in being a guest blogger for Atlas Online? Send your pitch to emersonatlasmag@gmail.com!

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