Madison Avenue is a one-way traffic street that runs through the boroughs of Manhattan. An actual physical place, over time it became a metaphor for the advertising world, with its colourful circle of legendary copywriters, larger-than-life creative directors and sleek account managers who pioneered the use of communications to build brands and businesses.
Built during the economic boom of 1920s, Madison Avenue has fast become the global center of the ad agency business that drew such luminaries as David Ogilvy, J. Walter Thompson, H.K. McCann and many other talented “mad men” from all over the world. Only very few places such as Wall Street can boast a name that denotes an entire industry in a similar way.
These days, both advertising as well as finance incumbents are challenged by the upstarts from Silicon Valley and Pearl River Delta, places that themselves became associated with tech companies. At the same time, Madison Avenue became way too expensive for agencies, most of which have moved elsewhere. Still, the place hasn’t lost any of its charm and is worth exploring by anyone who wants to admire classy architecture, dine in one of the hipster restaurants or just shop in many boutiques and stores around the area to appreciate the abundance of brands that the old masters of Madison Avenue have created.
Enjoyed this story? Here are a few recommendations you might find useful:
- Adland: A Global History of Advertising. A ground-breaking examination of modern advertising, from its origins and evolution to the current advertising landscape.
- Magnetic City: A Walking Companion to New York. Planning to explore New York yourself? Going for a long walk is one of the best ways to do it!
- Inside the Apple: A Streetwise History of New York City. Lively and comprehensive, the book brings to life New York’s fascinating past.