Celebrating the Return of Mad Men with 10 Real Ad Men

Former Ad Men Who Found Fame in Other Fields

Mad Men: It’s New York in the 1960s, and the men and women who work at the Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency are some of the top names in the industry. Writer and executive producer Matthew Weiner of The Sopranos fame is the man behind this 13-episode original series on AMC.


Celebrating the return of AMC’s Mad Men, I thought my readers would enjoy some real life Don Drapers. Those who were at one time part of the advertising industry and found fame in other fields. Ethan Trex, author of the Mental Floss Blog, provides this list in a recent post:

  1. James Patterson, NY Times bestselling thriller author of some 39 books.
  2. John Hughes, director of 1980 classic teen comedies.
  3. Dr. Seuss, writer of famed children’s books.
  4. F. Scott Fitzerald, among America’s greatest authors of all time.
  5. Salman Rushdie, famous British Indian novelist and essayist.
  6. Peter Hodgson, helped create Silly Putty.
  7. Helen Gurley Brown, three decades as editor of Cosmo.
  8. Sir Alec Guinness, actor who played Obi-Wan Kenobi.
  9. Herb Peterson, creator of the Egg MacMuffin.
  10. Gary Dahl, invented the Pet Rock.

Read Ethan’s entire post: 13 Former Ad Men Who Found Fame in Other Fields. Have an addition to the list? Add in the comment section below.



About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.


  1. Ridley Scott, started out making TV Ads in the late sixties.

  2. From Wikipedia:

    “Lawrence Kasdan: American movie producer, director and screenwriter. originally planning on a career as an English teacher. Upon graduation, Kasdan was unable to find a teaching position, so he became an advertising copywriter, a profession he found so loathsome he refused to bring a second child into the world until he escaped it. Still, he labored at it for five years (even picking up a Clio Award along the way), first in Detroit and later in Los Angeles where he tried to interest Hollywood in his screenplays.”

    Year Title Notes
    1980 The Empire Strikes Back writer
    1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark writer
    Body Heat writer, director
    Continental Divide writer
    1983 Return of the Jedi writer
    The Big Chill writer, director, and executive producer
    1985 Silverado writer, director, and producer
    1988 The Accidental Tourist writer, director, and producer
    1990 I Love You to Death director
    1991 Grand Canyon writer, director, and producer
    1992 The Bodyguard writer and producer
    1994 Wyatt Earp writer, director, and producer
    1995 French Kiss director
    1999 Mumford writer and director
    2003 Dreamcatcher writer and director
    2009 Robotech [1] writer
    2010 Clash of the Titans writer

    Also from Wikipedia:

    “Cathy Lee Guisewite is the cartoonist who created the comic strip Cathy in 1976. Her main cartoon character (Cathy) is a career woman faced with the issues and challenges of work, relationships, her mother and food, or as Guisewite herself put it in one of her strips, “The four basic guilt groups.””

    Kathy was a copywriter at WB Doner in Detroit.

  3. Novelist Elmore Leonard–from Wikipedia:

    Leonard graduated from the University of Detroit Jesuit High School in 1943 and immediately joined the Navy, where he served with the Seabees for three years in the south Pacific. In 1946 he enrolled at the University of Detroit, where he pursued writing more seriously, entering his work in short story contests and sending it off to magazines. A year before he graduated, he got a job as a copy writer with Campbell-Ewald Advertising agency, a position he kept for several years as he wrote on the side.

    Aside from the short stories already noted, a number of Leonard’s novels have been adapted as films, perhaps most notably Out of Sight, Get Shorty in 1995, and Rum Punch (as the 1997 film Jackie Brown). He has also written several screenplays based on his novels, plus original ones such as Joe Kidd.

    The 1967 film Hombre starring Paul Newman was an adaptation of Leonard’s novel of the same name.

    His short story “Three-Ten to Yuma” and novel The Big Bounce have each been filmed twice.

    Other novels filmed include: Mr. Majestyk (with Charles Bronson), Valdez Is Coming (Burt Lancaster), 52 Pick-Up (Roy Scheider), Stick (Burt Reynolds), The Moonshine War (Alan Alda), Last Stand at Saber River (Tom Selleck), Gold Coast (David Caruso), Glitz (Jimmy Smits), Cat Chaser (Peter Weller), Touch (Christopher Walken), Pronto (Peter Falk) and Be Cool (John Travolta). Killshot, starring Diane Lane and Mickey Rourke, was released in 2009.

  4. Susan Rosenberg says:

    Jerry Bruckheimer was an ad agency Producer prior to crossing over into feature films.

  5. Ken Ohlemeyer says:

    Former Saturday Night Live cast member from 1981-1984 Tim Kazurinsky worked at Leo Burnett in Chicago

  6. Mike Fleming says:

    Hi Michael,
    English actor Hugh Grant was an in-house copywriter for TalkBack productions and wrote commercials for among other things, Red Stripe lager. I’ve heard that he also voiced a few a of the ads he penned.

  7. Very cool factoid Mike. Thanks for sharing!

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