Memoir of a Mad Man

FROM THOSE WONDERFUL FOLKS WHO GAVE YOU PEARL HARBOR: FRONT-LINE DISPATCHES FROM THE ADVERTISING WAR by Jerry Della Femina

As a Mad Men fan, Jerry Della Femina’s 1970 memoir of his life as an ad man feels like a look behind the scenes of the show.  Told in Della Femina’s casual, but sagely knowing personal tone, FORM THOSE WONDERFUL FOLKS gives the reader the true story behind the advertising boom in the 1960s.  Admittedly there were “three martini lunches,” hanky-panky on company time, and wheeling and dealing in smoke filled rooms, but Della Femina reminds us that at the same time, a uniquely creative profession was in its prime.

The most interesting parts of the book for me were the stories of the ads themselves.  Della Femina describes the creative process from experience as two men in a room shooting the breeze until a briliant campaign emerges.  In today’s human resources office environment, this “lack of productivity” surely would never fly.  But out of this comes some of the greatest advertising ideas of all time: Volkswagen, TWA, Certs, Feminique, the list goes on.

One of the great mysteries that Della Femina attempts to unearth in his book is why exactly advertising is alluring as it is.  Perhaps it is the combination of the creative nature and the large amount of money spent.  Possibly it is the rags-to-riches stories that many of the highest powered players can boast.  While Della Femina does not necessarily nail the reason down, he re-affirms that the advertising world of the 1960s was a unique and cherished time that will surely never be repeated.

Matthew Weiner has done a fantastic job utilizing this text as an inspiration for the stories we see unfolding in Mad Men.  However, hearing the story firsthand is a unique experience that all fans of the show should savor.

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