Today I Learned Don Draper Was a Real Guy

Alright people, it’s time for you to actually LEARN something on this site for once.

Mad Men is currently most people’s pick for the best show on TV right now, myself included. It’s the story about a bunch of suave ad people fifty years ago working in offices where day drinking is encouraged and sexual harassment lawsuits didn’t exist.

No one exemplifies either trend more than the protagonist of the show, Don Draper, played to perfection by Jon Hamm, but I did NOT know that the character was based on a real ad man from the era, and it becomes obvious when you hear his name, Draper Daniels, and yes, that’s him above. Here’s the story:

In the 1960s, Draper Daniels was something of a legendary character in American advertising. As the creative head of Leo Burnett in Chicago in the 1950s, he had fathered the Marlboro Man campaign, among others, and become known as one of the top idea men in the business. He was also a bit of a maverick.

Matthew Weiner, the producer of the television show Mad Men (and previously producer and writer for The Sopranos), acknowledged that he based his protagonist Don Draper in part on Draper Daniels, whom he called “one of the great copy guys.” Weiner’s show, which takes place at the fictional Sterling Cooper ad agency on Madison Avenue, draws from the golden age of American advertising. Some of its depictions are quite accurate—yes, there was a lot of drinking and smoking back then, and a lot of chauvinism; some aren’t so accurate. I know this, because I worked with Draper Daniels in the ad biz for many years. We did several mergers together, the longest of which lasted from 1967 until his death in 1983. That merger is my favorite Draper Daniels story.

This is all part of a length article from Chicago Magazine, and I highly suggest you read the rest of it here, as it’s quite cool to see the real life genesis of the character if you’re a fan of the show.

One Response

  1. chelsea September 16, 2010

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