Late into the afternoon on a workday, I leaned into my boss’s office to let him know I was headed out a bit early so I could join my friends for a happy hour. He asked where I was going, and perked up when I told him. “You know who goes there regularly?” he asked. “The guy from Mad Men.”
“Cool,” I responded. “Rich Sommer?”
My boss’s eyes were suddenly dead to emotion except sadness. “No,” he said. “Jon Hamm, Amy. The guy anyone means when they talk about Mad Men.”
I knew I was supposed to be embarrassed. My office prides itself on its Mad Men knowledge. After all, I work at an advertising agency. It would be wonderful to feel that echo of recognition when Don Draper amidst smoke and bourbon solves a creative riddle. I want badly to relate to Peggy Olson because she’s smart with words and being a lady when it’s not always easy being a lady. But here’s the thing: I was thinking about Harry Crane for a reason.
I am Harry Crane.
I don’t mean that I wear clunky glasses, or that I’m not in the greatest of shape compared to my colleagues, though those things are both true. I definitely don’t mean that often higher-ups are hoping I don’t darken their office doorways, at least until they get through whatever the latest crisis is, though that thing is also probably true—however, Harry is often looking for attention and validation while I tend to be on the hunt for snacks.
Advertising has the reputation for being cutthroat, sexy, glamorous, and mature. I went to school for advertising, half a decade before Mad Men premiered in 2007. When I presented my portfolio for required review, it was all quirky and sophisticated ad copy. I wanted to be Peggy Olson before Peggy Olson was even a gleam in showrunner Matthew Weiner’s eye. But by the time the show started airing, that dream was already behind me.
Even though I moved out to L.A. with my portfolio clutched in my sweaty paws and big creative dreams crowding my newly B.A.’d brain, I took the first assistant job that came my way. Even dreaming ladies have bills to pay, after all. In my spare time I was writing books I hoped someone would publish someday, so it wasn’t as if I’d turned completely away from stringing words together in some sort of fashion. Also it turned out that I liked my day job—a lot—so I continued down that career path.
So I’m not a copywriter. I’m a media planner.
Why doesn’t Harry Crane get any respect? Because he’s a media planner. And no one cares about media planning.
People barely even know what media planning is. Every year when I visit home for Christmas, my dad says, “Remind me again it is what you do and also explain what it is.” Once I start speaking, he says, “Maybe next time you’re home” with his eyes already on the television and his hand frantically pointing the remote.
I’m actually really grateful that Harry Crane exists. (Well, “exists.”) Before Harry Crane (BHC) it was much harder explaining what I do. “Oh, so you make the ads!” “No, that’s the creative department.” “You run these sites!” “No, I work with the sites to run ads there.” “So if I see any ads on those sites you had something to do with all of them?” “No, just my clients for the campaigns we’ve been assigned.” “…” [Person has fallen asleep due to boredom/confusion.] But now when people say, “Ooh, advertising! Like Don Draper?” I can just say, “No, like Harry Crane,” and at least people kind of know what I’m talking about.
They immediately know I’m not doing anything glamorous, at least.
I technically don’t have Harry Crane’s exact job, because I manage a digital media department, and Harry Crane was buying TV commercial space and having no idea that one day people would see ads for Fortune 500 companies on their iPhones while sitting on toilets and such. The great thing about having a job no one understands in digital media is you get interoffice requests like, “Amy, because you’re in charge of digital media, can you fix my email? Amy, my mom says that a website she really likes doesn’t run well on her computer so can you do something about it? Amy, why does this person I know follow this person I don’t like on Twitter?” And then when you can’t fix these problems you undoubtedly get the same sad and dirty looks often shot at Harry Crane.
Since the last chapter of Mad Men still awaits us, right now we don’t know where Harry Crane will end up. And because I can’t see the future, this is just another way I’m like Harry Crane. Will he—will we be powerful and respected? Or at least wealthy? Right now, at least, we’re in similar places: living in Los Angeles, being chatted up at parties by our colleagues only when everyone else attending is far more annoying.
At least, geez, I’m not Ken Cosgrove. No, wait, I juggle my ad agency life with the life of a published author. I am also Ken Cosgrove! I am the baby Harry and Ken have probably in some slash someone somewhere wrote. I am everyone a person taking a BuzzFeed quiz hopes they don’t end up as.
But, honestly, when you’re a media planner, you already know that about yourself.