Lies Well Disguised: "Mad Men"

94 years ago, liar H.K. McCann launched his NYC ad agency with the slogan "Truth Well Told." That was a big fat lie. Advertising copywriter Copyranter brings you instances of advertising lies and the lying liars who sell them.

Mad Men, an AMC original series that promises "Madison Avenue like you've never seen it before," debuts in July. This week, both AdAge and AdWeek sport cover wrap ads promoting the one-hour, 13-episode show created by Sopranos writer and executive producer Mathew Weiner. It's set in the 1960s and stars Jon Hamm as "Don Draper," a hotshot creative director working for fictitious Manhattan agency Sterling Cooper.

Years ago (not quite the 60s), I was hired right out of NYC ad school by a fucking mad man; a man, now dead, who smoked blunts laced with cocaine like they were Marlboro Ultra Lights. Every idea in his portfolio was stolen from someone else. When he opened his own shop, he fucked every woman he hired, including his wife who worked part-time as an art director. He took clients' media money and never paid publications; he took clients' production money and never paid suppliers. Here's a few highlights of the brief history of the agency:

  • On the day he received his first big check, our new business "rainmaker," who was seriously as dumb as a piece of quick-stick yet amazingly effective, overdosed on a huge bag of cocaine in the man's Manhattan pied- -terre.
  • One of the boss's best friends, who often hung out at the agency after hours, was an amateur boxer and professional mob hitman with hair plugs who often spoke matter-of-factly about his "jobs" around us as we were trying to come up with ads for toilet paper and such. We later found out his stories were all true.
  • Every client was limo-ed out to the man's Jersey lakeside lodge and taken on a pontoon boat ride, where the details of the pro forma kickback arrangement were discussed.
  • At one point, a female account executive with camera-ready DSLs was fucking the boss (of course), the creative director, two copywriters (no, not me) and another account executive at the same time.
  • Fortunately, that's all I can remember, as I've blocked out many of the bad memories from this three-year period. Also I was, not surprisingly, going through a divorce. The point being: It's easy to believe that no one in advertising will be watching Mad Men, because living it was freakish enough.

    Lies Well Disguised: "Mad Men"A lie not disguised.

    Previously: Bob Garfield, Confidence Man