Real Mad Man Looks Back

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 at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.