New Smithsonian Channel Series Takes Viewers Behind The Scenes Of Advertising’s Formative Years In ‘The Real Mad Men Of Advertising’


NEW YORK – A new Smithsonian Channel four-part series provides an inside look into the men and women who re-invented the advertising industry from post-WWII America through the 1980s. Driven by memorable, classic ad campaigns, many of which are in the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the series also features clips and interviews with the creators of the groundbreaking series Mad Men. THE REAL MAD MEN OF ADVERTISING premieres Sunday, January 8th at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

In 2015, the National Museum of American History accepted a donation of artifacts, costumes and props from the series Mad Men against the backdrop of actual advertising history as displayed in its exhibition, American Enterprise.  THE REAL MAD MEN OF ADVERTISING uses these museum objects to explore the fascinating commercials and ad campaigns of mid-century America. Ads from Howdy Doody to MTV reveal the impact of commercial culture, while clips and interviews with Mad Men cast and crew members offer a glimpse into the meticulously constructed world of the iconic series. Their stories are set alongside interviews with the real ad men and women of the 1950s through the 1980s – from the top ad creators of the 1950s to Brooke Shields, who as a teen model was the centerpiece of a controversial early 1980s Calvin Klein ad campaign.



Premieres Sunday, January 8th at 9 p.m. ET/PT

In a post-war world, advertisers tantalized consumers with visions of futuristic homes and cars, shiny jewelry, and the newest home appliances.  Advertising harnessed buying power that created an unprecedented consumer boom. Advertisers discovered an entirely new, fast-growing market – children -- and began to market directly to them on shows like Howdy Doody. The decade saw the proliferation of the most powerful selling machine of all: television. What was previously shown in print advertisements and heard on radio ads was now seen and heard through the new and exciting medium of television - piped directly into living rooms. From “doctors” hawking cigarettes, to the newest fins on Cadillacs, to “Does She Or Doesn’t She” – the ad men and women of the Fifties were re-inventing culture.


Premieres Sunday, January 15th at 9 p.m. ET/PT

Starting with a game-changing Volkswagen ad created by Doyle Dane Bernbach that used self-deprecating humor, the “creative revolution” was born. Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner explains why he began his series with the launch of the Creative Revolution. Rejecting old-fashioned advertising gospel, these new mad men and women questioned everything that advertisers once held to be true. This change in tone was made possible by new voices in advertising, as diverse talent broke into the exclusive “white shoe” agencies. The 60s were a time of unrest and change, with protests and riots in the street – and Madison Avenue tried to capitalize on it.  As the civil rights movement gained traction, advertising was called upon to integrate. At the same time, the mystique of the counter-culture challenged the consumerism that was being pushed upon them. Ruled by the almighty dollar, advertisers were forced to change.


Premieres Sunday, January 22nd at 9 p.m. ET/PT

The Regulation Revolution of the 1970s was a time when consumers got hip, government got involved, and advertisers got scared into action.  The name of the game for Madison Avenue was “trust” – both losing it and reclaiming it. Kicked off by the banning of cigarette television commercials, it’s a decade when consumers got smart and angry, and advertisers employed the tools of the creative revolution to try and win them back with plain talk and honesty.  This episode tells the story of the rise of the consumer movement, championed by Ralph Nader and his “Nader’s Raiders.” If the 1960s promised a better world, the 70s faced the reality of delivering it.  Progress is a bumpy road, but one ad – and Mad Men finale centerpiece – fills airwaves with a song of diversity, peace and optimism.  The commercial featuring “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” may be considered the greatest ad of all time. It certainly looked and felt the way America wanted things to be.


Premieres Sunday, January 29th at 9 p.m. ET/PT

The 1980s were a time when greed was good, 24-hour sponsored programming was legal, and advertising became entertainment.  Out of the economic hardship of the 1970s, the election of Ronald Reagan offered a welcome brand of optimism.  A Madison Avenue dream team delivered a Reagan campaign commercial that put his candidacy over the top – promising “Morning in America.” Political confidence fueled an era of heavy consumption and new categories of designer products. Fifteen-year-old model Brooke Shields starred in the most controversial campaign of the decade, for Calvin Klein jeans – a steamy ad that was later pulled from major networks. Calvin Klein went on to make men’s underwear a fashion statement - setting the bar for the sexy, well-groomed 1980s man. Hispanic-Americans found representation that they were so dearly lacking in the advertising industry.  A 1984 Super Bowl commercial directed by Ridley Scott, introduced the Apple Macintosh, that promised to revolutionize the world. At the same time, cable television exploded and MTV became a network that spoke to teens in a way no one had before. With this first generation of music videos, content and commercial became indistinguishable.

THE REAL MAD MEN OF ADVERTISING is produced by Biscuit Century for Smithsonian Channel. Executive producers for Biscuit Century are Molly Herman and Rob Lyall. Tim Evans and David Royle serve as executive producers for Smithsonian Channel.