Madison Avenue and College Admissions

Have you ever watched Mad Men? It’s a highly regarded TV series running on AMC cable. It’s about a Madison Avenue advertising agency during the Fifties and Sixties. I’ve watched it from the beginning because I used to be involved in corporate marketing and find that watching what the earlier days of marketing and advertising used to be like is quite interesting.

There’s definitely a link between the marketing and advertising of automobiles and laundry detergent and college admissions. After all, the applicant is the “product” and the colleges are the “consumers.” Those of you who have just finished your college applications may have felt as though you were campaigning for a political office. Trying to receive a college acceptance isn’t all that much different from being elected to a political office. If you ever felt as though you were trying to “sell” yourself to your colleges, then you have experienced the thrust of marketing and advertising that permeates American society so deeply.

If you have any doubts about the depth and saturation of marketing and advertising in our culture, just spend a few hours some evening surfing your TV channels. If you have a fairly decent array of cable channels, you’ll probably find that it’s hard to click from channel to channel and not land on a commercial segment. Back when I was in high school, half-hour-long TV shows had one commercial break about midway through the program. That break consisted of one 30- or 60-second advertisement from the show’s sponsor. Today, an hour-long TV show may have up to 20 minutes of commercials and some of the breaks can be five minutes long! Of course, the advantages of such long breaks include bathroom and snack runs, unless you have recorded the program previously and can fast-forward through all those ads quickly. That’s my preferred method. But I digress.

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