Real Mad Man Looks Back

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Designer William Drenttel, a founding editor at Design Observer, discusses his pre-design background as a “Mad Man.”

When I started at Compton, account executives on Procter & Gamble generally had MBAs from Penn, Columbia or Dartmouth. We were white and generally male. We bought our (white) shirts at one of three places: Brooks Brothers, J.Press (“of New Haven”), or Paul Stuart. There were no other acceptable choices.
In 1979, with about 18-months experience, I went to Italy to launch Pampers. Since Italy was considered the third world in those days, I went overnight from being an assistant account executive to being a managing director. I rented a penthouse in the Teatro di Marcello, and spent three lovely years living in Rome.
It took me a decade on Madison Avenue to realize that I didn’t want to be a Mad Man, despite the thrill of the kill, the pitches, the travel. I actually came to hate advertising. I think branding is generally a plague on the earth. I’m so glad to be a designer, hardly sin-free, but closer to making things where I can say they are what they are, and not something delivered to me in a black bag in some airport. My Mad Man story is really about a person being saved by design.

A plague on the earth. Nice.
[via Kottke]

About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative direction at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.