The show that made old-fashioneds hip again (and “not great, Bob!” a thing) comes to a close this Sunday. Since “Mad Men” has always been marked by its excess in the booze department, we decided to ask a bunch of modern-day advertising pros what the drinking landscape looks like today.
The resounding answer? Not too different. Sure, people can’t drunkenly flub pitches like the SDCP gang, but our sources shared some party stories that would make Roger Sterling’s battered heart glad.
Everyone was kept anonymous for obvious reasons, but what follows are 100% real accounts from seven people currently working in the ad biz.
Is the modern drinking scene anything like the show’s?
“There’s definitely some parallels. I think people are a little more tongue-in-cheek about it now. They’re aware they’re drinking at the office. On the show, it seems like people are like, ‘Give me my whiskey and my coffee.’ It’s a routine. So I think that’s a bit different. But the party scene, depending on where you work, is still pretty prevalent.” -Designer, New York
“It’s an industry where you’re always on edge and you’re always having to put out fires. And then once it’s done, it’s like, ‘Great, now I can relax.’ But your body can’t really relax, so you have a drink. Obviously we’re not drinking — mostly not drinking — during lunch, but you have one in the late afternoon.” -Account executive, New York
Would hard-partying Don Draper fit in with ad agencies today?
“The thing is they will put up with just about any behaviour as long as you produce good work. So yeah, he’s drinking all the time, but as long as he can produce great work, no one cares.” -Copywriter, New York
“Certainly, I’ve worked with partners who seem to have the shakes in the morning. It does exist out there, but I don’t know if it’s a career path that I would advise young, burgeoning students or people who are in their first year working somewhere to follow. But people find success on the sauce. I mean, half of New York seems like it needs a liver transplant.” -Designer, New York
So do people still keep bottles on their desks?
“I have a 40 of OE on my desk right now. It’s pretty commonplace to have some whiskey or like red wine in the drawer. You can openly drink that stuff, too. I could crack open that 40, and people would make comments, but there wouldn’t be any blowback. I wouldn’t get in any trouble, and nobody would be offended.” -Senior copywriter, New York
“You might just pour it in a paper cup instead of glass tumbler.” -Producer, New York
How are the happy hours?
“We tend to do a Friday thing here where I work now. When I was at my last job, it was an all-the-time thing. Happy hour was very ambiguous because some people would start drinking at like 3.” -Designer, New York
“It’s once a week. There’s an official Thursday night happy hour. People cut loose, and they will get pretty drunk. There’ll be some flirting going on but it’s relatively tame. And I feel like that’s just normal office stuff, I don’t know that it’s an advertising-unique situation.” -Senior copywriter, New York
Just how boozy are client dinners?
“Yeah people definitely still love to schmooze. Every project I work on, if it involves a production company, or anyone else nearby, chances are we’re going to have some dinner where we abuse the crap out of a corporate card.” -Art director, New York
“I think the key thing is for clients, they’re working 9 to 5, more often with people they don’t like, and they have to deal with a lot of red tape and bureaucracy. And that’s the mystique of working with the agency. These guys are fun, these guys are cool. These guys are going to have a good time, so I’m going to have a good time. ” -Account executive, New York
“I’ve never been to a strip club with a client. I do know someone who has.” -Designer, New York
Are the holiday parties total shitshows?
“It’s the worst! It’s where everyone makes the worst decisions. And the next day, it’s tallying up the damage.” -Art director, New York
“You have a tequila room, a whiskey room, a beer room…” -Producer, New York
“At one of my old jobs, it was an open bar affair and I remember the CEO getting on his microphone and saying something like, ‘Hey, things have gotten a little weird at these things before, and I think they will get weird again, so don’t worry about HR.’ I’m completely paraphrasing, but it happens.” -Account executive, New York
“They spend hard on the holiday party. It does seem like the agencies try to outdo each other. Especially if they’re younger. The younger the agencies are, the more they try to be hip and cool.” -Designer, New York
What’s the craziest thing you ever witnessed at a work party/function?
“The year before me at an agency I worked at, the holiday party was in the office — supposedly, this couple had drunken sex in the cubicle upstairs. It ended up being about 40 people gathered around, peeking over the corners.” -Producer, New York
“I saw a CEO guy get drunk and drive a golf cart through the halls and basically take out a plaster wall.” -Vice president, New York
“The craziest thing I heard about is … previously, company parties were [held] at the agency. I’ll just say it this way: there are pieces of office furniture that you probably don’t want to sit on. Because somebody has found some romance there.” -Account executive, New York
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