Sunday night’s Mad Men had a dark tone, using several real-world instances to cast an even darker cloud over the episode. Most of the episode was dealing with out-of-office drama, including Don’s “illness,” which made him confront if not subconsciously kill his inner demons.
The in-office storyline focused on the creative pitch for Butler Shoes. Don and the team pitched an idea that the client had loved. As they were shaking hands, newbie copywriter Ginsberg brought up his “plan B” idea of women wearing these shoes and “wanting to get caught,” complete with a Cinderella ending.
Although the client buys it, Don is infuriated that Ginsberg would make such a suggestion without running it by the team first, let alone a ‘cliched” campaign with a fairy tale story arc. Moreover, the idea of young women being chased was even more egregious than it normally would be given the harrowing reports of Richard Speck’s murders in Chicago: Ginsberg nearly gets canned before his first campaign ever sees the light of day.
This episode, for all its darkness, also illustrates the importance of thorough communication to the team’s success. Before ever going to a client, team members need to make sure they agree on strategy and the messages they want to convey. Going rogue or doing something “off the books” runs a dangerous risk looking disorganized. This, in turn, leads to inefficiency, missed deadlines and even lost business.
This is not to say that innovative and spontaneous good thinking should be censored. Indeed, creative ideas should always be welcome. But team members should share their ideas internally first and get everyone on the same page before going to the client.
Don strayed from the company message in Season 4 with “The Letter” that he posted in The New York Times. Everyone was worried about the future of the agency – with good reason. Fortunately, the ad did not wreak havoc, although we can’t exactly say that it has paid off for them yet. Ginsberg’s maneuver was somewhat successful – for now – but could have blown the business deal for SCDP.
Ginsberg was almost fired for his actions. Had the client been infuriated with his idea, it very easily could have ended his job before it really began. When communicating with anyone, be it a client or colleague, how do you walk the delicate line between staying on-message, while still taking risks?
If you were Don, would you have fired Ginsberg? Or do you keep him because the client liked his idea? Discuss below in the comments. Or, if you like the post, please tweet it.