Mad Men call sparks blast from the past for 60s illustrator

The Mad Men poster advertising series six of the award-winning American TV show.

The Mad Men poster advertising series six of the award-winning American TV show. - Credit: Archant

HIS artwork will soon be splashed across billboards, buses, magazines and newspapers as part of a global advertising campaign to promote the latest series of American TV phenomenon Mad Men.

Brian Sanders at home in the studio he shares with wife Lizzie.

Brian Sanders at home in the studio he shares with wife Lizzie. - Credit: Archant

But the hotshot illustrator responsible is not a Hollywood heavyweight, he’s Brian Sanders, a 75-year-old artist from Littlebury.

The show, set in the stylish world of 1960s advertising, has won a multitude of awards on the other side of the pond, including 15 Emmys and four Golden Globes.

But it had never been marketed using artwork from the era... until creator Matthew Weiner came up with the idea ahead of the hotly-anticipated April return of Don Draper and his colleagues at the Spencer Cooper ad agency.

Weiner tasked his marketing team to come up with a specific look to advertise series six of the show, a trail which led them to Mr Sanders, an illustrator who thrived in the swinging 60s world of advertising in London.

“I was taken right back to those days and it reminded me of when I used to go to drinks parties on a Friday night,” said Mr Sanders, who is still working after a career spanning five decades.

“It almost made me want to reach for a cigarette again! I was working the same sort of hours with a similar brief – it was exactly how it was.”

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Examples of Mr Sanders’s work were discovered by Weiner in a book of magazine advertising called Lifestyle Illustration of the 60s – sparking the creator’s imagination for a unique advertising campaign.

In a quirky twist of fate, Mr Sanders was already a fan of the programme, having been given a DVD by his step-daughter and best-selling author Jojo Moyes before the Mad Men team came calling.

He added: “It was funny because Jojo was actually in Los Angeles negotiating the film rights to one of her books while I was designing the Mad Men poster – so there were two members of the family working in Hollywood at the same time. It was Saffron Walden does Hollywood!

“Jojo bought me the first series of the show and I’m a big fan – they got it absolutely right. It portrays exactly what life was like in the world of advertising in the 60s, even though I was in London and it’s set in New York. The only difference was the skyscrapers!”

Despite his new-found fame – having been inundated with phone calls and knocks at his door from the BBC, ITV and New York Times to name but a few – it’s not the first time the Littlebury resident has had a taste of life in the Hollywood spotlight.

In 1966 Stanley Kubrick offered him complete access to the set and filming of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

“Kubrick is a hero to most filmmakers and 2001 was one of the great iconic films. It was wonderful to be given a brief to draw whatever I wanted – he didn’t stipulate anything.

“I signed the rights for everything over to him and assumed he would use them for publishing purposes but he didn’t. Only one or two drawings ever saw the light of day.”

Mr Sanders told the Reporter it had been “extraordinary” to watch his latest work spread rapidly across the globe to much critical acclaim.

But his greatest compliment came from wife Lizzie, who said: “Brian was one of the most influential illustrators in the 60s and the work he was doing at the time was ground-breaking.

“I remember looking at his drawings in Honey magazine as a teenager and just being mesmerised by them. This was before I met him but he was doing something that was so different to anyone else and it really captured the essence of the 60s.”