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Posted on: March 09, 2012     by: 

Mad for Mad Men

As all of us at PointB are anxiously awaiting the return of Mad Men to AMC on March 25th, it seemed fitting to examine the way Don Draper’s Madison Ave. New York agency is run, and compare it to the advertising business of today. 

Cast of Mad Men

Photo Credit: AMC

Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is always buzzing with the excitement of new projects and the drama of deadlines, much like our own Chicago office. However, there seem to be more obvious deviations than similarities.

In addition to the fact that having a good, stiff drink or two at noon followed by a nap and a few cigarettes is more than frowned upon in the agencies of today, there are some other differences as well:

Don Draper

After threatening to leave Sterling Cooper, Creative Director Don Draper’s annual salary was raised to around $45,000 (all salary amounts given in today’s dollars), in addition to him later becoming a partner- technically adding up to about $315,000. A large amount of money- and almost too good to be true, considering that most “golden” ad men at that time were only making around $220,000. An average creative director in New York City today with 10 years experience will make a median annual salary of $126,500. 

Peggy Olsen

The quirky copywriter was making around $40 a week- bringing her to a salary of $14,500 a year. A young copywriter in NYC these days would be making closer to $48,000 - a huge jump.

Vintage Union Pacific Ad

Photo Credit: Newsweek/Daily Beast

Salvatore Romano

The debonair Art Director would be earning somewhere in the $100,000’s in New York today. In the 1960’s however he would have made significantly less, and would have created all of his illustrations for advertisements (like the example below) by hand on paper- a hard thing to think about in a time where everything is created digitally with the assistance of the Adobe Creative Suite.

the rest

Office Manager bombshell Joan Holloway and other secretaries like her earned a meager salary for operating a typewriter that cost just over $125 brand new.  Today, someone in her position would be working on a computer, and earning about $57,000 annually. 

And finally, the sometimes obnoxious but always entertaining Pete Campbell makes only $3,900 annually as an Account Executive. Account Execs today make around $46,000 a year fresh out of college in New York City.

One can also see a difference in the voice of advertising in general from the 1960’s to now. Targeting the home-maker or business man, these ads feel more genuine. They speak more towards the middle class, and seem more approachable and natural than some of the heavy-handed retouched work of today. A few examples are below: 

VW, Oreo, Tide Vintage Ads

Photo Credit: Ad Classix

Mad Men is an exciting show that not only gives us a glimpse into the life and times of an agency in the 1960s, but also allows us to marvel at the progress this ever-changing industry has made to get us to where we are today. 

Pour yourself a martini or three, and enjoy Season 5 with us.

Mad Men airs on AMC, Sundays at 9/8c starting March 25.

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