'Mad Men' creator Matthew Weiner talks about the real-life influences of the show in 'The Real Mad Men of Advertising,' coming to the Smithsonian Channel.


Peggy Olson and Joan Harris’ treatment in the advertising world was rife with sexism that barely subsided over Mad Men‘s seven seasons and their 10 in-show years. Showrunner Matthew Weiner unsurprisingly derived that from how the business truly operated.

Weiner will be featured in the upcoming Smithsonian Channel four-part series The Real Mad Men of Advertising, which examines the evolution of the industry from the 1950s through the ’80s. Weiner recalls how the treatment of Peggy and Joan inspired backlash.

“People were like, ‘This is awful. It makes me angry. Your show’s so sexist,'” he says in a clip from episode 2, exclusive to EW. “No one said it wasn’t like that. In fact, people started coming out with stories of, like, it’s worse.”

“There was no one you could go to to say, ‘My boss is trying to get me to go to bed with him,’ because who would you say it to?” Jane Maas, a former ad exec and author of Mad Women, adds.

Weiner estimates 50 percent of ad men dismissed the former AMC show’s depiction of the world, while women said it was spot on.


One of Mad Men‘s seminal moments is when Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce orchestrates Joan sleeping with a Jaguar Cars executive to help the agency land the account. They succeed, and in return, Joan becomes a partner.

“It was drawn from real life, although I don’t know if anyone ever got a partnership,” Weiner says. “I think Joan did better than anyone did in real life, which is horrible.”

See the clip above. The Real Mad Men of Advertising premieres on Smithsonian Channel Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

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