Atlas Shilled: Ayn Rand has her fans in the ad industry - McKinney

Atlas Shilled: Ayn Rand has her fans in the ad industry

November 7, 2009

In the critical hit program Mad Men, Bert Cooper, one of the founders of the show’s fictional ad agency, Sterling Cooper, recommends that the show’s antihero, Don Draper, read Ayn Rand’s 1,000-plus page tome Atlas Shrugged.

While critics have made a sport of spotting rare anachronisms and unlikely incidents in the rigorously researched program, the Ayn Rand connection appears to be plausible. Today, Rand may not have the influence of, say, David Ogilvy on today’s advertising thinkers, but she does have her proselytizers.

For the uninitiated, Ayn Rand developed a philosophy called objectivism, which embraces reason combined with individual liberty and laissez-faire politics. The goal of life, Rand believed, is full creative expression of an uncompromising vision. With a new Rand biography making the rounds, talk of a Hollywood adaptation of Atlas Shrugged and increased government intervention drawing comparison to that book’s events, several critics have taken aim at objectivism as a Nietzschean world view that lacks compassion and turns readers into elitists.

Though canvassing some of the top ad agencies revealed relatively few Rand followers (“I was one in high school,” said Droga5 CEO Andrew Essex in a typical response), a few are self-professed followers. Raleigh Felton, an art director at McKinney, for instance, says he long ago internalized Rand’s philosophy. “It fits in strongly with my work ethic and the importance of being productive,” he said. “Doing the best work possible for myself will allow my employer to become more productive, which will make each of our clients more viable. It will eventually allow for the consumer/individual to have a better product or experience which can change their life and ultimately make the world grow and become a better place.”