One thing’s for sure – AMC’s award-winning series Mad Men has made it easier for me to explain what a copywriter does. Previously, when “What do you do for a living?” was asked, I was often met with the uninterested response of, “Oh, that’s nice” – or worse, “So you do legal work?”
But now that Mad Men’s debauched copywriter turned creative director Don Draper and his cohorts have hit the scene, the response is more often, “So you’re like Peggy Olson from Mad Men?” The question is generally imposed with a lilt of innuendo. Read between the lines, what they really want to know is, “Is your job anything like how it’s shown on Mad Men?”
Well – yes and no.
For starters, there’s a whole list of unflattering and selfish things that the characters do on the show that just doesn’t fit the bill, so we can wash away those ideas completely. We do occasionally uncork the champagne to celebrate office anniversaries, a coworker’s good news, or a job well done by the team, but if I drank as much as they do, my liver would divorce me.
The most brilliant scenes of the show, however, do reflect some of the best moments of being a copywriter. In these scenes, Don or Peggy are pitching a concept to a client. They’re standing at the front of the room, calm and authoritative. Everyone else is still and silent, listening with rapture. And I think those scenes pretty accurately embody what it feels like when we’ve come up with just the right story to tell for our clients. So yes – there are some very rewarding moments, and those are the times when I feel like I’m standing in Peggy Olson’s pumps.