Top Fictional Movies and Series with an Advertising Spin

Among the many professions that are overly used among TV and movie characters, advertising professional is right up there with architect, lawyer, and doctor. Maybe it has to with so many copywriters making their way to Hollywood as screenwriters or perhaps it’s just a sexy occupation (on the surface and among those NOT in the biz).


Check out our top picks for movies and series with a marketing and advertising focus. We’ve excluded documentaries from this list for the simple reason that we wanted to provide you with some light-hearted summer fun. Here’s our countdown to #1 (which we hope you’ve already predicted).


8. What Women Want (film 2000) stars Mel Gibson as a chauvinistic advertising executive who gains the ability to hear women’s thoughts and uses this newfound power to his advantage. At its heart, the film is a timeless and star-studded (Gibson, Helen Hunt, Marisa Tomei, Alan Alda) romantic fantasy comedy.


7. The Joneses (film 2009) has a plot which seems to predict the era of social media influencer marketing that took off less than a decade later. David Duchovny, Demi Moore, Amber Heard and Ben Hollingsworth star as the Joneses, a seemingly perfect family who moves into a wealthy neighborhood. In actuality, they are a top-notch stealth marketing team looking to influence their supposed peers.


6. Trust Me (2009, 1 season) who’s tagline was “It’s MAD MEN for the rest of us” is a short-lived comedic drama centered around the lives of two executives working in a high-pressure Chicago ad agency. Most of us missed it and you cannot currently stream it anywhere. Pity because it got decent reviews from watchers.


5. The Crazy Ones (CBS 2013-2014, 1 season) sitcom starring Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar, centered around a father-daughter team running an advertising agency. Critics and fans alike were all for the chemistry between Williams and Gellar but ratings fell throughout the one season. At the time, we were unaware of Robin Williams’ struggle with Lewy Body Dementia which would cause him to take his own life on August 11, 2014. We should all watch it in his honor.


4. Crazy People (Film 1990) was panned by critics while also becoming a huge candidate for ad agency viewing parties in the 90’s. We could all relate to the disillusioned advertising executive played by Dudley Moore who was committed to a mental institution only to wind up being redeemed as a creative genius. It makes you wonder who’s crazier, the people within the walls of the ad agency or the asylum?


3. Emily In Paris (Netflix 2020-2023, 3 seasons) is a romantic comedy-drama series that focuses on the life and career of Emily Cooper, a twenty-something marketing exec who leaves Chicago for a position in Paris. At first, she is very much a fish out of water but overcomes challenges through as many outlandish scenarios as the writers can muster. The series has been nominated for 5 Primetime Emmys.


2. Thirtysomething (ABC 1987-1991, 3 seasons) is not on our list just because it was set in our agency’s stomping grounds. Many of the plots in this angst-ridden drama revolved around the main character’s careers in advertising. The great performances in this popular series garnered 4 Emmy nomination including one win and a Golden Globe Nomination.


1. Mad Men (AMC 2007-2015, 7 seasons) won 16 Prime Time Emmys among other awards. It’s a brilliant period drama with amazing characters, writing, and performances. Does it accurately portray agency life on Madison Ave in the 60s? There’s a great article from the Guardian regarding what the show got right. Regardless, it portrays the cultural changes of that time period better than anything I’ve ever watched.


Honorable Mentions

(featured characters in advertising but advertising/marketing was not the focus)


Bosom Buddies (ABC 1980-1982) is known more for its quirky men-in-drag humor, but the two main characters played by Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari were also a copywriter and graphic designer pair.


Bewitched (ABC 1964-1972) involved ad man Darrin Stephens facing numerous challenges as he balances his professional life with his magical wife, Samantha. Of course, we all know that Samantha’s struggle to be a simple mortal married to an ordinary man was the big story.


Melrose Place (Fox 1992-1999), a more adult spin-off from 90210, featured a cast of young adults with diverse professional lives. But it was Amanda Woodward (Heather Locklear) who often stole the show as president at D&D Advertising and owner of the Melrose Place complex.


We hope you enjoy some downtime this summer so you can stream and binge-watch some of Hollywood’s best takes on the world of marketing and advertising. Heat up the popcorn, fire up the TV and chill in the air-con.

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