Jerry Della Femina's now forty year-old book has been appropriately resurrected with the success of Mad Men. In fact, it is now a text book case of co-branding. Clearly, the original book was fodder for Matthew Weiner's superlative series and, as a result, is now leveraging the television drama on its re-released cover along with an endorsement from Mr. Weiner (the cover art now emulates Mad Men's opening sequence).
Della Femina would be a guy you would want to sit next to on a stool at the Oyster Bar. He would regal you with raunchy stories of Madison Avenue and if you listen carefully enough, you may learn something about advertising. Buried within the stories of drinking, toking, cheating, and playing politics are a few good bon mots like:
"There is no such thing as a bad client. But there is such a thing as bad advertising."
"Most account guys live with fear in their hearts."
"Creative people do not have a business sense about themselves."
"There is a great deal of advertising that is much better than the product. When that happens, all that good advertising will do is put you out of business."
Throughout the book there is high praise for Bill Bernbach and his agency, DDB. In fact, he sites the Volkswagen campaign as the industry game-changer and the people from DDB as the successful archetype for the industry as a whole. A beneficial section is on presenting and pitching where Della Femina accurately likens it to theater.
In terms of the Mad Men antics, he summarizes the industry with: "Crazy? Yes. Romantic and glamorous? Not one bit. The wild stuff, I'm afraid, is very much overrated." Which is true in Mad Men when we see agencies and individuals sow the seeds of their own destruction week to week.
The book works extremely well as a time capsule but is not a "how-to" (nor is it meant to be). But if you are looking for both great ad industry stories and how to be successful within it, I suggest: "Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: A Guide to Creating Great Advertising" by Luke Sullivan. But be extremely careful when you read anything on advertising because it has been written by advertisers. As Della Femina cautions, "Part of this business - a big part of it - is illusion."