Peggy Olson, the feisty female copywriter at the center of AMC’s hit drama series, Mad Men, is credited with creating some memorable advertising slogans (e.g., “A Reasonable Price” and “Come In And Chill”). But perhaps the most famous line that she wrote — and, in fact, co-wrote with director/co-writer John Slattery — is “The French Are Coming!”
“The French Are Coming” was first used in a television commercial for the American luxury goods company Neiman Marcus in 1965, when Olson was a 20-something year old copywriter at Ogilvy & Mather agency. At the time, the French were a major topic of international concern, as many Frenchmen had joined the military in an effort to defeat the “Anglos,” as the French perceived themselves to be. In fact, the French were so concerned about the possibility of an American-British-French attack that they established the fictional International Rescue Service (IRS) as a sort of informal Defense Agency. It was this national security-themed drama that inspired “The French Are Coming!”
The commercial was such a great success that it inspired another installment of the series. According to legend, Mad Men creator and executive producer Matt Weiner was so impressed with Olson’s work that he gave her the lead role in the show as a writer’s assistant. This is presumably why, whenever an ad campaign or commercial from the early days of Mad Men pops up on television (or online), Peggy can be counted on to have some witty rejoinder.
More Famous Slogans
In Mad Men, we not only see Peggy’s unique brand of humor, but we also learn about her unique brand of copywriting. When she’s not putting her talents to use for Don Draper or the clients of the ad agency she works for, she is devising memorable slogans for various companies. Here’s a short list of some of her best slogans, which you may know and love (or hate)…
- “A Reasonable Price” for the TWA airline in 1964-65.
- “An Answer To Everything” for the Kellogg’s cereal in the mid-1960s.
- “A Brand You Can Remember” for the GEICO insurance company in the 1960s.
- “Allied Breweries of Chicago” for the Chicago-based beer brand in the 1960s.
Deeper Background On Peggy
It’s no secret that Mad Men is set in a fictionalized version of the post-war era, but that doesn’t mean that the historical figures in the series don’t have bearing on the story. For instance, in an effort to boost tourism in New York City, the organizers of the 1964 World’s Fair (which is partially depicted in the show) enlisted the help of advertising executive and consultant to the United Nations, Don Draper. The character of Don Draper was inspired by the life of William H. Donaldson, an iconic American advertising executive, public speaker, and UN consultant. Born in 1920, Donaldson began working in the field when he was 24 years old and quickly rose through the ranks. He founded his own agency in NYC, where the show is set, in 1960. In 1962, he became the youngest person ever to hold the title of Advertising Creative Director at 29 years of age.
Why Do People Love To Hate Peggy?
While some people may love Peggy, it doesn’t seem that many people share that sentiment. Across various media platforms, we often see individuals share their distaste for Peggy, often using colorful language to emphasize how they feel. Here are some of the most notable quotes about Peggy Olson (and I’m sure you can think of a few more…)
“The Most Successful Slick Chick In Advertising History.”
“Mad Men’s” Peggy was ranked #2 on the Slick Chick Index, an annual ranking of the most successful female copywriters in advertising history. She was ranked behind only Shirley Eisdorfer, who worked for the Benton & Jefferson advertising agency in St. Louis and wrote over 100 winning campaigns for clients such as Anheuser-Busch and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. The Slick Chick Index is the brainchild of Max Davidson, the founder of Adverber, a behavioral advertising company. According to Davidson, “Peggy’s unique brand of humor and outspokenness make her a standout candidate for the title of Slick Chick.”
“Not Since Cleopatra Has An Ad Campaign Appeared So Dazzling…”
In his review of Mad Men for The New York Times, film critic Steven Zeitchik praised the show for its writing and acting, but he took issue with one of its elements. He wrote, “One aspect of the show that I haven’t liked is Peggy Olson’s advertising campaigns. They’ve often been so dazzling that it’s hard to remember that she’s supposed to be a down-to-earth, working-class girl. It’s as if she’s completely sold out. Her campaigns lack that indefinable je ne sais quoi that makes authentic advertising art.”
Apparently, the way that Peggy dresses — sometimes provocatively and sometimes not — has something to do with it as well. She may not always dress for the office (as she’s usually seen in more subdued outfits), but oftentimes she is more than willing to put on a show for the men. This, of course, is one of the things that endears her to her friends and co-workers (and drives her husband bonkers), but it doesn’t seem to resonate with others. Perhaps this is because she wears a lot of provocative clothing and yet, at the same time, projects an air of insouciance and confidence that is completely at odds with her apparent insecurity and anxiety. It’s fascinating to me that her outfits become an issue for some individuals, given that she is the female protagonist of a show about advertising and the power of word-of-mouth marketing. Maybe it’s time to reconsider her clothing choices…
“She Fuelled A Revival Of Vintage Looks In Advertising.”
In her blog post for Refinery 13, costume designer Elle MacLeman discussed how Peggy Olson helped spark the “revival of vintage looks in advertising.” She wrote, “Peggy played a crucial role in the 1960s revival of vintage fashion; she fuelled a revival of vintage looks in advertising by demanding androgynous clothing for women and men alike, and encouraging employees to express themselves creatively through their wardrobes, whether or not it matched the corporate culture.”
“A Designer Worthy Of The Neiman Marcus Name…”
In 2010, Mad Men was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award in the ‘Factual Entertainment’ category for ‘Outstanding Drama Series.’ In addition to being nominated, the series was also considered for a Golden Globe Award in the same category. One of the series’ co-creators, Matt Weiner, was nominated for an Emmy Award in the ‘Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series’ category for the third season, eighth episode, ‘The Chrysanthemum.’
When asked about her most memorable moment while working on Mad Men, Olson replied, “I was at Neiman Marcus on Fifth Avenue, and a woman came up to me and said, ‘I loved your work. May I have your contact information?’ And I said, ‘Well, it’s probably not the most secure number, but I’m happy to share it with you.’ She wrote down my information and walked away.”
“It’s A Girl Thing…”
In an interview with CosmoGirl!, Olson explained, “When I was a little girl, my favorite movie was ‘Gentleman James,’ and the scene that always stuck out to me was when James Mason asks, ‘Is it a girl thing?’ and Gloria Swanson answers, ‘It’s a girl thing.’ It was the first time that I realized that there were certain things that women did and certain things that women were, as opposed to ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘men will be men.’ It was a liberating moment for me.”