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The Real "Mad Women" Say "Pshaw" To Mad Men


Forget Don Draper. Forget the swaggering men with greased hair and glasses of scotch, smoking their lungs black as secretaries wait on them hand and foot and...other places. Nonsense, says one of the real higher-ups in the 1960's advertising world. Too tame! Not enough ego! No one cared about what anyone else was doing because they were all so self-absorbed! If there wasn't crying and screaming in a meeting, the product was no good! This was true, balls to the wall, seriously celeb-quality life these Mad Women were living.

That's right, betches. Screw the Mad Men. The ladies were the ones in charge.

That's according to an amazing article in the Times of London, which profiles Mary Wells Lawrence, a self-made multimillionaire from the "Mad Men" days, who is just as fabulous and outspoken in her 80s as she was when she created the slogans for Alka Seltzer (plop plop fizz fizz) and Braniff Airlines (she teamed with Andy Warhol for that one.) And she's telling the real story of the advertising biz. Hint: it was far from the old boys club that Mad Men would have you believe.

You know the iconic "I Love New York" slogan, crooned by Frank Sinatra and still plastered over every inch of the city? A woman came up with that. And they didn't look like the uptight Peggy Olsen, the secretary who gets her own office at the end of Mad Men's last season. Wells Lawrence looked like Twiggy, she points out, and was so fabulous that "people asked for my autograph." The women, who made up the vast majority of the consumers in the late 1950s and early 60s, knew what the public (read: other women) wanted. It was Wells Lawrence that came up with a "brand" or several products by the same company advertised together. She made a fortune. She was fabulous. And she knows it unabashedly to this day.

And she wasn't the only one. Many women found their fortunes in advertising, and Wells Lawrence had many a female boss, who worked her through the ranks. No need to look like Marilyn Monroe to make it up from the typing pool: These were highly educated, smart, stylish women who knew what the public wanted and gave it to them. And they were damn good at it.

So those "Mad Men?" Would have been piddling their stylish trousers if they had to deal with the real ladies of advertising. And that? Is just awesome. I just wish there was a TV show about Ms. Wells Lawrence. Now THAT I'd watch.


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While her world may have functioned like that I have a mother who worked at offices (one an advertising office) here in the US during the same time. She has said to me on more than one occasion, "It's like having a flashback to working then. I worked with women who were Peggy and Joan, and all those girls, and we were treated like that. That is not a joke. My best friend slept her way to the top of the steno pool, and the men, well they aren't wrong about a lot of that either." So while this lady experienced a different version of the same world, also know that her reality wasn't neccessarily the reality of everywhere. London particularly was pretty damn cosmopolitan and ahead of the states in a lot of ways at that time. Based on my mom's experience (working in both Milwaukee and Los Angeles) at the time, Mad Men is a pretty accurate representation of a woman's working place at that time. Hell, it's why she got out of office work and went to assmebly carburators at a factory, where she was treated not as an object, but as a worker.


I *love* Mary Wells Lawrence. She is an icon in advertising.
She also created the "Flick your Bic" tagline for Bic lighters and her teaming with Andy Warhol on Braniff Airlines included designing the fabric for the seats and the Pucci-like paint on the plane itself.

For a great read, try her biography "A Great Life (in Advertising)"!


I think this is a topic worthy of more posts and discussion. And pictures of Christina Hendricks. Yes.

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