Mad Men: Then and Now

In a single phrase in his inauguration speech, President John F. Kennedy foretold the massive culture rifts and shifts that would shatter the status quo and ring in an era that unfolds oh so glamorously in the TV show Mad Men. 

“Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.”

Young Turks to Old Guard:  “Watch out.  We’re in charge now.”

Women also played a role.  Jackie Kennedy re-defined the role of First Lady.  She didn’t look or dress like her predecessors or global counterparts.   She brought style, sizzle and an air of celebrity to the White House.  She set her own agenda.  Requests she found boring were waved off with a PBO — polite brush-off.  Like Betty and Don Draper, there was a dark side to the storybook marriage.  But Jackie found ways to assert her will. 

The little ripple of defiance trickled into the corporate world.  We see the dynamics of change as Mad Men  chronicles the malaise and mores of the time.  Women in the workplace were breaking barriers.

Here’s an interesting Then & Now assignment.  Select one or any of the following: 

1.  Quickly undertake a catch-up of unseen Mad Men episodes.  Lavish in the return of the series with the premiere of Season 5 on Sunday, March 25.

2.  Imagine Don Draper having a savvy and talented female counterpart – real-life agency VP and creative director Jane Maas.  Read her frank and very funny chronicle of career pursuits, work/life balance (or lack thereof) in  Mad Women:” The Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the ’60s and and Beyond. 

3.  Live vicariously through the most successful and iconic ad woman of her time.  The brilliant and beautiful Mary Wells Lawrence, who broke the glass ceiling as first female CEO of an NYSE public company.  Her book:  A Big Life in AdvertisingFor those of us coming up in the ad/PR world, Mary represented the gold standard in female business leadership.  She still influences via

4.  Don’t miss the Newsweek nostalgia issue and cover piece written by venerable political commentator Eleanor Clift, who began her career as Mad Men copywriter Peggy Olsen did — as a secretary, the de rigueur port-of-entry for many in the day. 

5.  Re-visit the ad campaign for Virginia Slims, the first cigarette for women.  Tagline:  You’ve come a long way, baby!

Flash forward to the future.  Have we really???

You decide.

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Copyright © 2012 Nancy Keene