It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad…

From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor: Front-Line Dispatches from the Advertising War by Jerry Della Femina, edited by Charles Sopkin
I was cruising in the car recently and heard an interview with a fellow whose book was one of the inspirations for Mad Men.
So I made like a librarian and tracked down that there book. And read it in one sitting.
It’s a period piece, that’s for darn sure—and it’s full of words that Betty Draper would say are “ugly.”
But it’s spritely, and no wonder, given that the author was a copywriter. He’s a word guy, and he’s provocative, and the book goes down like a fine martini.
While it’s possible to get stuck on things like, “I can’t believe he just used that word,” and to get all titillated by some of the more shocking stories he relates, the part of the book I found the most fascinating was the chapter (“Fights Headaches Three Ways”) in which he describes the “crazy chemistry” between a copywriter and an art director, who shut themselves into a room and talk (and talk and talk) until they get the idea for an ad.
Or, sometimes, they pulled it out of their hat in the two hours before a presentation. (And I thought that was just done on the show for dramatic effect!)
He puts it like this: “With every art director I ever worked with I reach a point where I would start to say something and the art director would finish the sentence. I would say, ‘What if we said, “What’s the ugliest…”’ and the guy would say, “I got it, I got it!” Without going any further.” (p. 154)
Then he goes on to say that people buy the mystique and think this sort of thing is magic, when it isn’t.
But I tell you: I think it is.

Now, let’s all go Mad Men Ourselves.


Leave a Reply