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Mad Men – The Thrill of Victory

Finally, after several long weeks (and at least seven episodes) the SCDP team has won the Heinz account. After several failed pitches, attempts to partner them with the Rolling Stones, not even slimy Pete Campbell could coddle them to sign on. Until Megan comes up an idea that seems simple yet brilliant – that beans, like spaghetti, will never change. It will always be a staple of family life.

Megan was fortunate enough that Raymond’s wife spilled the beans on their upcoming firing so they could pre-empt Heinz’s move. The execution and teamwork between Megan and Don was flawless. Their marriage provides a soft loving exterior for their direct, hard-nosed business motives. Afterwards in the office, the mood is jovial as everyone is celebrating their first big win since Lucky Strike.

Winning new business does not happen overnight. It takes several weeks, if not months, for things to come through. Several people have to work on the push. There’s a suspense, drama and rush that you won’t be able to find anywhere else in business. To pull from sports saying, there is a thrill of victory, but there also is the agony of defeat. At the end of the day, only one company can win, while everyone else goes home empty handed.

When attempting to seal the deal, there’s a need to be ready for anything and everything, and pre-empt spelled right?  a suspected or hinted loss with a counter-strike to appease. That’s how Megan and Don were able to seize an opportunity.

For her part, Peggy is a role model when it comes to her strong support of Megan. She recognized and saluted Megan’s success even though her own creative ideas had failed with the client. Instead of being jealous, she “took one for the team” and did what was best:  support the company as a whole.

At the end of the day, it’s a true team effort; from the start of the new business chase, through the successful win, and the (hopeful) flourishing partnership between both sides. It cannot be done by just a few people. It takes everyone from an agency to succeed, so appreciate the team you have around you.

Mad Men – Good Work: My Anti-Drug

The 60’s were quite the time to experiment. Peggy and the SCDP team certainly tried a few new things in the latest episode. Perhaps Peggy’s most questionable decision (at least the one we’re going to talk about) is her reaction to the Heinz client who did not approve the “Home is where the Heinz is” campaign. Peggy is used to having Don convince the client that the work is good. Don’s off in another realm and not paying attention to anything going on at the office.

The Heinz rep says that Peggy & Co. write down what he asks for, but they can’t give him what he wants. Peggy lashes out, saying that he knows the work is good, “young and beautiful,” and that he just likes fighting. She is immediately removed from the account and goes on a midday movie-marijuana-extracurricular bender.

It’s very important to stand behind your work and push back when you believe in your ideas. There is a thin line though between pushing back against your client and being aggressive towards your client. As we have said in previous posts, every client relationship is different, which means an appropriate tone for one client may not work for someone else. But insulting or belittling your client is never appropriate; doing so could rupture the business relationship and cost you your job.

Seeing Clearly

People stand behind their work because they’re invested in it; they’ve put time, blood, sweat and tears into creating something that they are proud of. But one needs to see the project with clear eyes, which is where the concept of a healthy work/life balance comes into play. Spending too much time at one or the other will sacrifice the quality of the neglected part.

Having enough time for both work and leisure is vital to a healthy lifestyle.  That doesn’t mean you can take off whenever you want, even if Don Draper thinks so. Think of it as a symbiotic relationship—we tend to do our best work when our personal lives are fulfilling, and we are happier outside the office when things go well on the inside.  It’s obvious the folks at SCDP have their work/life priorities out of whack. Peggy’s boyfriend reminds her, “I’m your boyfriend, not your focus group!”

While there are plenty of ways to de-stress from work, I recommend doing none of the things that Peggy, Don, or Roger did in the latest episode. Not that I speak from experience, but their actions seemed to cause more stress than release it. And given that stress usually kills the creative exchange of ideas, it’s a bad omen that so much of it is flying around SDCP.


Previous Mad Men posts on The Hit Board:

Mad Men – Fighting for New Business

Murder and Team Work: All in a Night’s Mad Men

Mad Men – Fighting for New Business

When trying to secure a new business lead, you’ve got to come out on all cylinders. In last Sunday night’s episode of Mad Men, the SCDP leaders went out with both guns-a-blazing to help land a new business lead from Jaguar.

Pete et al see dangers in having Lane—a finance guy and friend of the Jaguar exec— as the point person on such a big account. But they themselves head into danger when Pete, always apt to show clients a wonderful time in the city, takes them all to a brothel (sans Lane).  Edwin’s wife finds outs and SCDP loses the business altogether.

While we at DGC don’t recommend such *extreme* measures to garner business, we do believe that relationship-building takes time and hard work.

Getting off on the right foot with a client is tricky– kind of like dating. You don’t want to do or say the wrong thing. You have to feel each other out, learn how the other person operates, and keep both parties happy. The desire to please can cause you to make some bad decisions you later regret.

In a professional services business, several factors can make or break a relationship. It’s a mix of chemistry; expertise; the ability, on both sides, to negotiate and resolve conflict; mutual respect, and some old-fashioned common sense (something the fellas at SCDP were sorely lacking throughout Sunday’s episode.)

And also, we recommend a post-mortem when you do lose a piece of business. Discuss what went wrong. What would you have done differently, and what will you do differently in the future to avoid a similar situation?  A hard-and-fast rule:  no physical fighting, no matter how much the Roger-type in the office wants to see it. There’s always a professional way to solve things. If anything, settle your differences on our ping pong table.

Murder and Team Work: All in a Night’s Mad Men

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.


Monday Matinee Mad Men: You Can’t Always Get What You Want

New business is the life blood of any agency but so are those large-scale retainer accounts that back in the day, paid agencies a straight 15 percent fee. Since Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce lost Lucky Strike, it’s been a free-for-all in trying to find that next great account.

This week SCDP found itself winning new (old) business with Mohawk Airlines – and was still trying to land the elusive Heinz business. Over dinner with Don, Megan and his wife, the Heinz client delivered his own “brilliant” idea to pair the brand with a hot new band called the Rolling Stones, getting them to sing “Heinz, Heinz, Heinz is on My Side” to the tune of  the Stones’ classic “Time is on My Side.”

Usually one to squash a client’s idea, Don instead agreed to investigate the possibility of securing the band. After a failed backstage ambush at a Stones concert inNew York, Don and Harry drown their sorrows (and Harry’s medicated munchies) in fried food.

Interesting fun fact: The idea wasn’t too much of a stretch as the group created a jingle for Rice Krispies back in 1963.

Teaming bands and brands isn’t a crazy concept anymore. In fact, it’s everywhere these days, and seeing this strategy in its nascent stages is part of what makes this episode so fascinating.

Artists have exclusive and dedicated audiences. They have the power to unite people of all ages and demographics and create evangelists. Artists are their own brands. But if used strategically, they can help raise another brand’s profile.

Live Nation has mastered this concept by partnering popular artists with brands that resonate with their fan bases. Using data analytics, Live Nation was able to determine tendencies of fans for particular artists. For example, some of their integrated marketing programs include those for Beyonce and Citi; Thirty Seconds to Mars and HP; and Hertz and Fitz and the Tantrums.

Today, though, it’s about more than just a 30-second ad featuring a big-name act. A smart marketing program engages music lovers at every brand touch point – before, during and after the show, on Twitter, Facebook, mobile apps, and via VIP events at the venue.

But as Don Draper would likely point out, just because you can have the Rolling Stones sing about your beans doesn’t necessarily mean you should. An example of a good partnership between artist and brand in today’s age comes from Translation. The agency created an original song for Wrigley called “Forever” with Chris Brown back in 2007. The song featured Doublemint’s catch phrase “Double your pleasure, double your fun” throughout the song, which ended up being a No. 1 hit and garnering extensive exposure for Doublemint. Chris Brown represented a youthful vibe that Doublemint was lacking. He helped connect the gum to the next generation

What Live Nation, Translation and others know to be the golden rule of branded partnerships, is that the star brand has to be a fit for the corporate brand. If there isn’t an authentic connection between the two, you’re left with disappointed fans, celebs and marketers. So even though the Stones weren’t right for Heinz beans, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t another band out there that would do the trick.

Perhaps in next week’s episode the Beach Boys will make a cameo appearance. Unless they’re way down in Kokomo.

How Much Have We Really Changed?

In the weeks leading up to the season premier of AMC’s Mad Men, various business publications had a field day showcasing the sexist ads of earlier eras.

As astonishing as some of them are, it’s legitimate to ask just how much society and the industry have evolved, especially when you consider that the percentage of women comprising the advertising workforce has remained flat—holding at 55 percent since 1982, the earliest available data from the 4A’s.

Belvedere vodka recently ran an online ad that was suggestive of an attempted rape.  A steakhouse in Georgia thought it was funny to post on Facebook the name of one of its sandwiches—the Caribbean black and bleu–in honor of Chris Brown and singer Rihanna. And who could forget last year’s Chapstick ad?

In all three instances, the ads went viral, not because people thought them clever, but because consumers wanted to express anger and disgust at words and images that were demeaning or made light of violence against women.

Even though the companies apologized for the ads, it’s tempting to lament that societal attitudes about these issues haven’t changed much. However, the speed with which consumers can and do shame brands on social media regarding questionable messages gives us reason to hope.

Monday Morning Mad Men: Welcome back!

It’s been a long 17 months since we’ve seen our friends at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. We’re back in 1966 and SCDP is still trying to nail new business they desperately need. As we found out at the end of season four, Don has convinced Heinz to give them small piece of their business – the beans division – with the hopes of bringing attention to this often overlooked sub-brand (behind Ketchup). Thus, we find Peggy in the pitch room trying to sell in their first campaign idea to the client.

In the creative presentation, Peggy presents the team’s best campaign idea for the beans – a Bean Ballet. The client is not immediately thrilled (as Peggy expected), instead asking for something more conservative. Don joins the room and Peggy expects him to come to her rescue as her so often does when clients aren’t buying more provocative ideas. Surprisingly, Don simply agrees to come back to the client with something different and more in line with his desires. Peggy leaves feeling deflated from rejection, but that’s because she wasn’t working with the client’s vision.

If we were SCDP’s counsel on pitching new business, we would have made four recommendations to Peggy:

  1. Get the brief right. Briefs are critical to success. They allow clients to share their desires and visions from the outset, while helping to set expectations. When written properly, they are an important tool for both teams to stay on the same page and avoid disconnects along the way.
  2. Understand the way your client thinks, and tailor your pitch accordingly. If you know you have a conservative client that won’t be open to pushing the envelope, present your more conservative ideas first. Over time you can earn your client’s trust for more boundary-pushing ideas. If you can anticipate your client’s reaction, you will have a leg up for how to present your ideas, and how to work with them over time to take more risks.
  3. Communicate with your client. If there is a disconnect between the client and the agency, the work will suffer. Consequently, the relationship will suffer too. Make sure there is an open dialogue between you and your client…not just with your day-to-day client, but with the key decision makers. This will get you one step closer to success.
  4. Learn when to hold ‘em, learn when to fold ‘em. Sometimes (most of the time), a client wants what a client wants. Understanding when it’s appropriate to push for your own ideas, and when it’s appropriate to back down, is an art form, not something that’s learned from one meeting. Sometimes conceding your own ideas in the interim will allow your client to trust you later on.

We’re sure Peggy and the creative team will come back with a winning idea next week. Stay tuned!

A Mad Men State of Mind


Rent Bye Bye Birdie on DVD. Read The Agony and the Ecstasy (a biographical novel of Michelangelo) by Irving Stone. Re-acquaint yourself with Furniture and Interiors of the 1960’s.

If you’re not a fan of the show Mad Men, maybe these cultural touchstones will help you become one. The premier of the AMC show’s fifth season airs on March 25 in a special two-hour episode, and The New York Public Library is suggesting a list of books and other materials that pertain to the era. Book titles on the list are there because they are either verbally referenced, being read by one of the characters, or visible in the background of different episodes of the show.

This promotion is pretty brilliant. For the New York Public Library, that is. What a cool way to get readers to use the library, engage with the web site and maybe consider renewing their library cards. After all, access to these and other extensive materials is free with a library card and quite expensive to acquire all at once on Amazon.

For that, the NYPL is DGC’s PR star of the week.

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