You Know Mad Men is About a Start-up, Right?

Apr 02, 2013 at 6am

I’ve spent the last couple of weekends binge-watching Mad Men, trying to catch up for this Sunday’s premiere at a frantic pace. I didn’t realize it in season 4, but somewhere between Betty’s second ice cream and Megan’s “Zou Bisou”s, it hit me. At a glance, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is totally, well, kind of, a start-up. 

Here’s why:


1. Their new office is SO “cool.”

The sofas, the glass conference room, the mid-century furniture and typewriters (so ahead of – or, I guess, exactly within – its time). This office, aside from Harry’s weirdly old furniture, is definitely trying to make a statement.


2. Hours are “flexible.”

Is it me, or is Don constantly leaving at, like, 1:45 p.m.? I’m not sure it’s a “We don’t care which 80 hours you work” type of deal, but no one seems to care if you dip out to the movies in the middle of the afternoon, as long as you stay till 11:30 that night. I’ve never actually worked at a start-up though, so I’m not sure if smoking pot and giving theater randos a hand job is a “thing.”


3. They sleep at the office.

Okay, maybe they’re only rarely sleeping on the above-mentioned sofas because they’re working so hard, but sleeping overnight at the office for whatever reason is totally normal. And the rampant napping! Don, what do you even DO anymore in your office besides nap and make out? On that note, I’d appreciate an occasional cutaway to an office toothbrush, because even John Hamm can’t make post-nap mouth smell sexy.


4. They drink on the job.

Do they ever. I think SCDP is a little too classy for a keg in the kitchen, but maybe the next thing in start-up culture will be supercute rolly table things for all your vintage decanters.


5. They use “viral” campaigns.

Don’s “Why I’m Quitting Tobacco” letter is basically an analog blog post.


6. Vacation policy is lax.

Work! Don’t, sometimes! Whatever! SCDP isn’t going to dictate how many days you can take off a year when you’ve got places to go and ex-wives-but-not-really to see.


7. Snacks on Snacks.

OK, this is a bit of a reach, because everyone loves snacks, but that office really digs the sandwich trolley. It’s not clear if, in typical start-up fashion, the food is free, but I can’t remember anyone paying for anything, so I’m keeping this. Plus, crunch time = lobster cart.


8. They’re bootstrapping.

The money that started SCDP isn’t a bank loan or a distant investor’s money. The company basically has five cofounders, and the stakes of having their own money on the line creates obvious stress, since they know that if the business fails, it could ruin them as well.


9. The gender imbalance.

I guess I was shamefully somewhat ignorant of this, as it seemed everyone (regardless of their bits) was working at a start-up, but the Internet is riddled with articles about the lack of women at start-ups, and Peggy definitely will not let us, nor Megan, forget what a difficult time she had making her way to copywriter. 


10. The sexual harassment.

It makes sense, as much as sexual harassment can "make sense", since both the Mad Men office and that of new start-ups seem to have a casual, “no rules” attitude and lack of an HR department. I imagine, and hope, that the Mad Men version is much more extreme than today’s start-up version, because, Roger and Pete! (Ew, and Lane kissing Joan. Come on, Lane. Maybe Joan can pretend it never happened, but what about the rest of us?)


11. They get superexcited about new business.

Yeah, any company should be pumped about making money, but the guys at SCDP are obsessive about landing airlines or anything that will “legitimize” them. Sound familiar?


12. They try to seem bigger than they actually are.

Remember when they totally overspent for that Christmas party to impress that Marlboro asshole? There are a whole bunch of guides online with advice on how to make your start-up appear bigger than it is. I don’t see “Pretend to have a second floor that doesn’t actually exist” anywhere, but good plan, Pete. Maybe he could write a guide on how to make your start-up look literally bigger than it is, and start with that. Other tips could include hiring only really short people and making sure no one ever looks at your building in a rearview mirror.


13. They have forced mixers out of the office.

The only difference is that I guess everyone at start-ups secretly hates going to those things, and Don hates them out in the open. Except when Trudy invites him. He at least tries to come up with excuses for Trudy, but she knows what’s up. Come on Don, just go! I get that Trudy sucks, but don’t you want to hang out with Alex Mack?


14. The old are secretly threatened by the new.

Oh, Don, you put on such an aloof face, but we all saw you leave Ginsberg’s snowball pitch in the cab. Plus, Roger hates Pete. So much. Although, that might be less because he’s threatened by him and more because Pete is SUCH a little fussy baby all the time.


15. They forge checks.

Having start-up employees as roommates means always having to wait for their embezzlements to go through before you can send the rent. Having them as friends, though, is great, because it’s like, “Dinner at Quince tonight? I just grabbed a couple thou from the company, so it’s on me.” 

Kidding, I’m kidding.


Here’s hoping season 6 brings an IPO, kombucha kegs, and an open-office floor plan, because the tantrum Pete would throw to lose his precious walls would be pretty great TV.

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