The Real 'Mad Men' Behind the '60s Ad Revolution

Mad Men, AMC’s critically acclaimed drama about the advertising men who ruled Madison Avenue in the 1960s (and the women who worked and lived with them), is coming back for its fourth season on July 25. Apart from making ’60s fashion and décor stylish again, the show offers a fascinating take on how some of the 20th century’s biggest brands became what they are today. In her new book, Mad Men Unbuttoned: A Romp Through 1960s America, blogger Natasha Vargas-Cooper took a look at the real men behind the ’60s ad revolution and the cultural landscape that influenced them. She spoke with NEWSWEEK’s Isia Jasiewicz about what Don Draper can teach us about advertising and the media now.

What is it about the advertising business of the 1960s that appeals so much to television viewers now?

What you’re seeing in Mad Men, and what you see at Sterling Cooper [the fictional agency where creative director Don Draper and his cohorts worked through the season-three finale], any time that Don pitches a campaign, [it’s] actually part of a creative revolution. In Don’s work we see the idea that advertising should be less about arguing the virtues of a product and more about having some sort of emotional connection to it. In the ’60s, that was a new idea. Part of watching the show and part of its fun is to know that Don knows what he’s talking about. The trends that were set in those boardrooms and the way that advertising was talked about then is really how it is now.

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