It’s a Mad Mad Mad Ad World

I work in advertising. A cynic would say I write the words that convince people to buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have. I sell the American dream, product by product.

And in a way, that’s true. People tend to either love advertising or hate it, and to be frank, a number of people in this industry hate it themselves. I happen to love it, most days, but not without a sense of humor. You’ve got to have a sense of humor if you’re going to spend hours working on the perfect headline to sell something that the consumer may never think twice about. Because when you get it right, you feel like a million bucks. And yes, the right sort of advertising has changed the world. 

Half the reason I love this industry so much is the people. Irreverant types who stay out late, make every kind of inappropriate joke, and aren’t afraid to laugh at themselves or sing their own praises (because a sense of bravado can really work in this business). These are my people, and we’re an odd breed. I think we all fell in love with what we do a little more because of Mad Men, and that’s totally understandable. It made us sexier in the eyes of consumers. “Oh, you work in advertising? Is it like Mad Men?” Or, when I tell people that I’m a copywriter, I’m met with the question “So, which character’s job do you have on Mad Men?” Peggy Olsen is usually the answer, although maybe I hope there’s some Don Draper in there, too – at least the attitude.

I’m still new to the game. I’ve been doing this for about two years, and I’ve learned a lot in those two years. I know what my favorite sort of writing is, how to do it better, what I need to work on … there’s always something new. And sometimes I wonder if this will be my job forever. It’s hard to imagine telling people I do anything else, and maybe part of the reason why is because they always seem so fascinated. Like advertising is this strange, glamorous world where we all drink martinis and smoke cigarettes that magically make us cooler instead of giving us lung cancer. And sometimes it is glamorous – sometimes I get into situations so crazy that no one would think it could happen in real life. Other days, I wish I could just go home and forget about it. The same highs and lows that everyone feels at their job.

At the end of the day, the best part of it is that you’re creating something. Today I made things that didn’t exist this morning, and that’s pretty damn cool. This industry is alive, constantly changing, and as much as the old days seem sexy and romantic, the days to come will be just as adventurous. There are still accounts to win, disappointments to be had, scandalous situations waiting for the unbelievable twist at the end. It will be both deliciously evil and wonderfully good, it will be mind-numbing and fascinating, it will be all of that and more.   

It’s advertising, kid. Put on a seatbelt. 


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