Mad Men Era v/s 21st Century Digital Agency EraWalking into office, you didn’t get the time for breakfast so you’ve carried your oats and milk. Nothing like a healthy start to your day to get those creative juices flowing.

Now scroll back a few decades, mid – sixties, shall we?

Walking into office, you didn’t get the time for breakfast so you’ve opened your mini bar and poured yourself a couple pegs of whisky and a cigarette to go with that. Nothing like a tipsy start to your day to get those creative juices flowing.

Those are the workings at the Mad Men advertising agencies. Now let’s throw Don Draper, Roger Sterling and the rest from the Mad Men series, as they are, straight into present day, 21st century. Straight into your contemporary digital agency or better still, a digital startup.

(Pssst! Article may contain spoilers, tread carefully)

How would that transformation go? So here are 11 aspects of an average work environment we have picked to draw a comparison between the Mad Men era and the 21st century digital agency era:

1) Start-of-the-Day Refreshments

Don Draper Drinking

Knocking back 2 (…or 22?) whiskey sours was how they beat the Monday morning blues, was how they beat everything actually.

Don Draping Drinking Orange Juice

No more escapism, men. You either stick to your virgin drinks or start planning a mini vacation with that severance package you’ll be getting by the end of the week.

2) Work Attire

Joan, Peggy and Dr. Miller in the lift


The highest of heels, the tightest of skirts and the reddest of lipsticks is what the lady folk were best known to wear at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

Formal Work Attire

Did you know that many corporates (including agencies) today have compulsory full-sleeve-shirts-only-trousers kind of dress code? You’re allowed to roll up your sleeves for Casual Fridays though.

3) Gadgets and Technology

Gadgets of the Mad Men Era

The 60s offices saw only a handful of gadgets; typewriter, telephone, the photo carousel and the Xerox machine.

Gadgets of the 21st Century

Cut to a world where the wifi networks have become essential elements of the air we breathe (oxygen just got an update, people!) Lay out the welcome mat for laptops, cellphones, iPads and iPods, scanners and all the screens and metal contraptions you’re using at office.

4) Work Ethic

Unethical Behaviour at the Sterling Cooper Office

It seems that the idea of work ethic as we know it today wasn’t taken quite as seriously during the Mad Men era. Think of every bad ‘ism’ you know and assign a couple to each employee. Let’s help you with a few, racism, sexism, nepotism…

Peggy in Mad Men Working With A 100 Versions of 'No'

There’s a strict rule against each of the above mentioned ‘isms’ and most of what Don and Roger pulled at SCDP would face an outright no-no in the contemporary office environment.

5) Social Interactions

Mad Men Office Party

Interactions with friends, co-workers, spouses or clients were all either face to face or over the phone. You’ll find nobody hiding behind the confines of a chat room to make friends and communicate.

Social Networking Overload

Welcome, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Who else thinks Pete Campbell’s tweeting would be A LOT like Kamaal R Khan’s?

6) Current Events

Reaction to the JFK Assassination

The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Vietnam War.

President Obama

Barack Obama elected president of the United States of America and then there’s the a 21st Century synonym for war; terrorism, that makes news horrifyingly too often.

7) Work Relationships

Joan and Roger on Mad Men

Torrid affairs with the founders, seniors, clients and co-workers. At Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce everyone was in heat.

Everybody in Conference Room

Today, you can hardly date a colleague without having to sign an agreement peppered with stipulations of all sorts. And yes, most are keeping their work and love lives absolutely separate.

8) Client Relationships

Jim Cutler Dealing With Clients

They did the most unspeakable things for their clients. From holding outrageous parties (… among other things) to extravagant liquor drenched dinner meetings where, usually both parties went home together. Kinda makes you wonder if there was an invisible ‘Screw Morals’ clause in the agreement.

Cramped Up Partners Meeting in Mad Men

It’s all most sternly professional with clients. The 21st century seems to have brought with it an invisible “No Screwing Around” clause. Get in, do your thing, get out.

9) Office Space

Bert Cooper's Spacious Office

Most offices had the liberty to be spacious with large eccentric paintings and Japanese room dividers (shoes off in Bert Cooper’s office for a reason, people!)

Working at a Desk or in a Cubicle

The concept of a personal office is close to becoming nonexistent. Unless you’re a Tata or a Zuckerberg you sit in you cubicle or at your desk and be happy.

10) Sexism

Sexist Advertisment

I mentioned it earlier, but this issue deserves its own point. One could watch Mad Men simply to research the thick layer of sexism that outlined the lives of the people in the show and time period.

Anti Sexism

It’s not even news anymore that women have begun rising to top positions, we as a generation seem to have evolved past sexism. Maybe not completely, but we’ve made some pretty substantial progress and I doubt we’d tolerate jokes “putting a woman in her place”.

11) Cigarettes!

Joan, Harry and Ken Smoking

Cigarettes were it. The men did it, the women did it. The workplace, the elevators, the hospital, you name the place; there was a thick blanket of cigarette smoke that surrounded said place.

No Smoking in Offices

Today, you name the place; there’s a thick board with ‘NO SMOKING’ somewhere on a wall. (And probably an annoying 18 year old standing next to it, smoking, with his best friend taking a picture of his “rebellion”). Smoking at workplaces today is for balconies and terraces, just anywhere outside the premise.


If you notice that we’ve missed out on a few points, do let us know in the comments section.

And if you’re a modern digital agency let us help you hire a Don Draper or Peggy Olson for your company! Give me a call on +91 922 221 3196 or send me a quick mail at buzz [at} sutrahr dot com.

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