Mad Men: Are They Making Mad Money?
From naughty secretaries in tight, red dresses to sexist, chain-smoking account executives, the TV drama Mad Men has fans all a flutter about 1960s culture. Right down to single malt scotch during meetings, Mad Men's Sterling Cooper ad agency gets wide acclaim for re-creating the
But, what about all that money they're making? Raises, bonuses, merit increases – Peggy, Pete, Don and the gang are hungry for them. Don Draper rakes in an impressive $45,000 a year. What would that mean in today's dollars? And, what do big-time advertising execs in
Let's take a look at some of the salary info we have picked up from the show and adjust it for inflation using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index calculator. This index tells us how much spending power each 1962 income would give its character in today's market. We'll also check out typical salaries in 2009 for the same agency jobs, according to online salary database, PayScale.com, and see if the TV characters seem over- or under-paid compared to today.
Creative Director, Advertising
Don is Sterling Cooper's golden boy. After threatening to leave, his annual salary jumped from about $35,000 per year to around $45,000. Plus, he became a partner. In 1962, that would be like having $315,000 to spend every year. That's a lot. In fact, your average creative director in a New York advertising firm today, with about 10 years of experience, would likely earn less than Don, at a median annual salary of $126,400. Even the highest paid "golden" guys and gals in Don's position come in around $220,200. But, hey, he's Don Draper.
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Account Executive, Advertising
Pete had a love-child with Peggy Olson but he and his wife can't conceive. While the stress of childlessness makes their marriage bumpy, at least his wife Trudy's family affords them a comfy lifestyle. Pete doesn't quite rake in the big dollars yet with only $75 a week, or $3,900 a year. That would be like having $27,300 to spend a year. Thank goodness for his honey's money. By comparison, an account executive at a New York City advertising firm today, fresh out of college, would do a little better, making about $46,000 per year.
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This racy redhead keeps Roger's heart pumping and the girls in the office fearing for their jobs. Her modern day counterparts likely live less glamorous lifestyles and wear more comfortable shoes. What do they earn? An office manager with over five years of experience in
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A lead copywriter and social activist, Paul is an office Romeo who is certainly making more than his fellow, female copywriter, Peggy Olson. Just how much, we are not sure. His bohemian lifestyle and progressive social views make it seem like he's not a money guy like Don or Roger. But, it turns out that, today, a senior copywriter like Paul makes a better salary than most folks in the office at $86,000 per year.
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Though Salvatore doesn't get any extra income for the stress of hiding his sexual orientation from his homophobic colleagues, he should earn a fair amount for his hand-drawn sketches and tasteful designs. Plus, he just looks so good with that tan and colorful hanky in his suit pocket. Today, a senior art director with 10 plus years of experience who's working near Midtown usually rakes in an impressive $99,356 per year. And, their salary can range into the high $100,000s. That's good, because any art director probably likes to dress up and look sharp as much as Salvatore.
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Roger's second wife served as Don Draper's secretary, and eye candy, for a short time. Her secretarial skills certainly didn't pay her bills, but maybe her college degree helped boost her earnings. It sounds like most of the secretaries and typists on the show earn about $35 a week which would be like having $13,104 in your pocket for a whole year's work. Ouch. Fortunately, incomes have improved for the hard-working, well-organized secretaries of
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Bridget Quigg is the web content editor for online salary database PayScale.com.
Located in Seattle, Wash., Bridget specializes in writing and editing content for blogs, websites and feature articles.
Bridget graduated from Stanford University with a degree in English. She teaches creative writing and is also a songwriter who regularly performs music and comedic story-telling in the Seattle area and beyond. Her most recent one-woman show was titled, "Almost Female: A Jockette's Awesome Journey."