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Step Up and Make Change

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changeIn a flight back from Washington-Dulles airport the other day I realized one very important thing that many employees today do not – the power to make change. Between my snoring neighbor and two pre-teen brothers fighting beside me, I caught myself daydreaming.

What happened was I read article in the Harvard Business Review entitled “Influence: How to Get It; How to Use It.” The article reminded me of my strengths and the relationship I have built with senior leadership in my current organization. While day dreaming, it dawned on me that the average employee at our company does not feel as if they are able to talk and influence them as I have previously been successful doing. Couple this with internal issues that some of our employees are experiencing and it makes for one interesting daydream.

Many individuals in corporate America do not realize that they themselves have the power to make change. Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm) in Mad Men says his iconic line “If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation.” While that is the fictional advertising world it rings true today in real life. The trouble is, most colleagues are waiting for someone to ask them or tell them before change happens. Usually the ultimate change occurs; they move on to a competitor. I knew it was time to step up and make change.

While on that flight I put my mind to work with one question and one answer on my mind – “Why? Because someone has to do it.” As soon as I made it back to the office I had an impromptu meeting with a Project Manager (PM). This PM is one that I personally feel is well-respected and has a very keen sense of judgement. We spoke about an idea to develop a company program where employees feel empowered and can be part of the change. Currently we are writing out a clear purpose, methodology and follow-up policy for the group. We plan to gain senior management buy-in throughout the coming weeks.

This entrepreneurial spirit can live, thrive and survive in your organization. Sometimes you have to step up and set up a system to allow employees to be part of the change, and sometimes they take charge and do it themselves. What can you do to be part of the change in your organization?

Merging Ideas and Businesses: Mad Men Philosophies

Ted Chaough (Kevin Rahm), Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) - Mad Men - Season 6, Episode 6 - Photo Credit: Michael Yarish/AMC

Ted Chaough (Kevin Rahm), Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) – Mad Men – Season 6, Episode 6 – Photo Credit: Michael Yarish/AMC

“For Immediate Release” was a perfect name for this last episode of Mad Men. This episode of Mad Men has truly been the best and most action-packed episode of season six thus far. Out of all the infidelity, french subtitles, and lost business, comes a revival of Roger. Through a VIP airport lounge girl, Roger Sterling meets Mikey O’Brien of Chevy. The two hit it off and Roger wins a spot in the creative pitch for their newest model car.

The night before the pitch comes and Don Draper is sitting at a Detroit bar – not surprised. Ted Chaough of Cutler, Gleason and Chaough walks in. Chaough believes that now that their are two smaller agencies in the mix, they now cancel each other out. So for the fun of it, they play a little game of “show me yours and I’ll show you mine.” After they run through a version of their pitches, Don laments that he should sell his brain to Chevy in a jar while Ted suggests they both leave now. Don slyly says, “We. That’s interesting.” It is interesting, especially since Joan berated him earlier in the show for never using that word. Don takes the reins and tells Ted to decide what to pitch while he figures out how to convince Chevy it was their idea. As simple as that, the merger begins. In the time of Mad Men, Campbell Ewald had already been handling Chevy’s business for decades. For this model, in the fictional world, SCDP and CGC won.

Mergers, partnerships, and idea sharing are common among today’s ad agencies for large clients. Just recently, former Chief Marketing Officer Joel Ewanik of GM formed a historic ad agency structure between Interpublic’s McCann Worldgroup  and Omnicom’s Goodby, Silverstein, & Partners, called Commonwealth. Unfortunately, this agency structure for Chevy advertising looks to be crumbling.  When creative’s come together to form a greater good for a client they must be able to work well together. Here are a few things Don and Ted, and anyone in this situation for that matter, will have to do to work well together.

  1. Find a new office: If one company just merges into the office of another it  could easily become a turf war. The other company would always be seen as the new guys and not as a merging of equals. A new office allows both companies to feel like the new guy and will allow them to start off on a good note without any mention of whose chair you can or can’t sit in.
  2. Set boundaries: Two creative genius‘ that are used to holding the fate of the entire company in their hands may not have the easiest time consulting each other before they make decisions. For client projects like Chevy they may both have to collaborate, but for the rest of the clients they should divide and conquer. Trying to have two creative heads with very different personalities work together may turn into an episode of Jerry Springer fairly quickly. Setting boundaries will help keep work efficient and effective.
  3. Respect colleagues: Peggy is in a new role and let’s face it, Don can’t just throw twenties in her face anymore. also, there is a whole other creative department that both sides will now have to integrate. Colleagues and superiors alike will need to respect each other’s talents.  If they respect each other, they should be able to collaborate more easily and produce even better work. If colleagues start disrespecting each other, cliques will form and it could be a huge detriment to both ad agencies.
  4. Find common ground: Both companies were doing some amazing work already. Once competitors, they are now a merger of equals. This competitive spirit may get in the way so it is important to find a common ground between colleagues. Understand each other, spend some time together, and understand expectations.

Have you ever been in a situation where a company was bought or merged? Maybe a new client came in and your department doubled? How did you deal with it and what was the outcome?

This article originally published on the Talent Zoo blog Beyond Madison Avenue at: http://www.talentzoo.com/beyond-madison-ave/blog_news.php?articleID=17462

National Tragedy and the Workplace: Mad Men Philosophies

peggy_mad_men_season6_episode5What does The Flood have to do with the assassination of MLK? That and many other comments came from viewers on the fifth installment of Mad Men season 6.  This episode did one thing very well. It showed the public how white collar working professionals dealt with a national tragedy at work just less than 50 years ago. Dealing with a national tragedy at work is not easy no matter what time period you are in. Every person and every company deals with these situations differently. Here are five situations in how the Mad Men era deals with national tragedy in the workplace; the similarities to people you may know today are haunting.

  1. The Paul Newman: Don Draper and the rest of Madison Avenue found out about the tragedy while at the Andy Awards with Paul Newman giving the keynote address. One audience member yelled out and the hall quickly cleared for a break in the festivities. When they summoned everyone back into the hall Don said “What else are we going to do?” The idea for this set was to forget about it and move on. After the party Don just wants to fall asleep.
  2. The Harry Crane: Less than 24 hours after the tragedy, Harry Crane is fielding calls from clients on make goods for all the commercials they are not airing. Crane boldly says “Enough of this crap already,” much to the dismay of Pete Campbell. Crane thinks there is too much news coverage on MLK’s death taking up his precious airtime. Crane’s philosophy is to work through the day and move past the situation.
  3. The Creepy Client: Roger’s “insurance friend” Randall Walsh wants to come in the next day, again less than 24 hours after the assassination.  Walsh wants to take advantage of the situation with a new ad. He had a trippy dream where he thinks he spoke to MLK himself. He wants an print advertisement for his property insurance with his company name, a Molotov cocktail, a match, and a coupon at the bottom. Don’s morals stand to attention and he agrees with the client’s current art director not to move forward. Don says it is in poor taste. The creepy client philosophy is focused on inappropriate opportunism.
  4. The Helpers: We see a few instances of people needing to spring into action in the wake of the tragedy. Henry helps the mayor. Abe helps the public by reporting for the New York Times, heading to “… Harlem in a tuxedo.” Megan takes the kids to a vigil in the park. She says ” I just can’t sit around the apartment anymore. I feel like I have to do something.” The philosophy for the helpers is to focus on the needs of others.
  5. The Peggy: Ever the insightful one, Peggy hits the nail on the head. Upon arriving at the office she tells her African-American secretary “You should go home. In fact, none of us should be working.” Back at SCDP, Bert Cooper closes the office early. This group realizes what affect a tragedy has on society and places high value on employee morale.

As we see in each instance, many people have very different ways of dealing with a national tragedy as large as the MLK assassination, especially in the workplace. From extremes of not caring about it to taking time off of work, the Mad Men era is all over the map in dealing with this. This is surprising to see since just 5 years earlier the world was in shock with the death of JFK.  Which set do you or your company fall into when dealing with a national tragedy at work? Was their a sixth category you would add to this list?

This article originally posted on the Talent Zoo blog Beyond Madison Ave at: http://www.talentzoo.com/beyond-madison-ave/blog_news.php?articleID=17427

The Secrets to Secrets: Mad Men Philosophies

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Stan Rizzo (Jay R. Ferguson), Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) - Mad Men - Season 6, Episode 4 - Photo Credit: Jordin Althaus/AMC

Stan Rizzo (Jay R. Ferguson), Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) – Mad Men – Season 6, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Jordin Althaus/AMC

Episode four of Mad Men season six, To Have and To Hold, is very secretive. In the first scene, we learn that SCDP is going after Ketchup after all — behind the scenes. Don and Stan spend a lot of time in a back room at the firm with tin foil over the windows. They are keeping this creative pitch a secret from everyone, including the other partners at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (SCDP). The presentation day comes and Draper et al. give it their best. Upon leaving the room, they run into Peggy and Ted Chaough. Don listens in on Peggy’s pitch and is visually heartbroken when she uses one of his tried-and-true techniques. Both firms run into each other at a first-floor restaurant. Ken Cosgrove walks in and tells them that Ray from Heinz baked beans found out about the pitch and fired SCDP on the spot. Project K fell flat.

There are some secrets to secrets. Don and the gang attempted to court Ketchup as if it was another mistress. It backfired. In any business there are always secrets, whether they’re little secrets to keep from lower levels of staff or bigger secrets such as the one Draper encountered. Here are four secrets when it comes to secrets at SCDP and your office:

  1. A secret is only a secret if you don’t tell anyone. SCDP was doomed from that start when Stan told Peggy about the then-potential Ketchup pitch. Also, since the Ketchup and Baked Beans accounts were part of the same company you had to know that they would find out sooner or later. Not to mention, Timmy was not the only Heinz man in the room. He had others involved in the selection of the competing agencies. We also have to realize that Timmy from Ketchup didn’t like Ray from the Beans business. These types of workplace politics always exist. No matter what you think, secrets will be known eventually.
  2. Nothing ever stays secret for long. Once you tell someone a secret they will most likely tell it to someone else. It is part of human nature to let people in on the juicy gossip. How Ray found out about the pitch we are not sure, but it could have been any number of things, such as: a memo (a forwarded email today), a friend privy to what is happening on both sides, or Timmy may have told him directly to watch his sales crash and burn. No matter how Ray learned of SCDP’s disloyalty, we learn that secrets are not designed to be kept secret long.
  3. You are a key player. You know you are key to the company when you’re involved. For Don, Stan is his new go-to guy. Ginsberg is shut out again. When you are part of a secret this big, that is a real testament to your character. When you are a key player, you should be open and honest about things. Stan forgot to mention to Don that he let it slip to Peggy that SCDP is not pitching Ketchup. Don would have been able to foresee some things and make more informed decisions.
  4. Weigh the possible outcomes. If and when the secret does get out, is it worth it? From the start, Don and Pete said Ray would never find out about this. They did not think about what would happen if he did. Could they afford to lose the business? It is a gamble. When you go to the casino it’s not smart to take so much money that it would leave you living out of your car for the next few years. Only play what you can afford to lose. Since it is still a secret, the rest of the partners will not be happy once they learn about this loss. Would the other partners have made the same decision? If you do not want to get caught, do not proceed. You must be able to accept the consequences no matter what the outcome is. Peggy and Stan’s friendship is now severely damaged and the company has lost a multi-million-dollar national account.

How do you deal with secrets at work? Are you always in the know or in the dark? Give me a fifth secret to secrets.

Read the original article on the Talent Zoo blog Beyond Madison Avenue at: http://www.talentzoo.com/beyond-madison-ave/blog_news.php?articleID=17379

Loyalty, Friends, and Work: Mad Men Philosophies

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heinz-baked-beans-mad-menLoyalty and work in advertising. This is not the standard norm that it once was. Loyalty in this business — in any business, for that matter — is more of an old value that sits on the shelf, used occasionally but most often forgotten. Mad Men’s latest installment in their Emmy-winning series titled “The Collaborators” brings us three major instances of challenged loyalty in business. Let’s not even get started on their personal lives.

  1. Loyalty and longtime business: Don Draper and Ken Cosgrove are visited by Heinz Baked Beans client Raymond Geiger for an introduction meeting. He introduces them to Heinz Ketchup’s “Polished Pollack.” The meeting ends and after the head of the “Coca Cola of Condiments” walks out of the room, Ray quickly changes his tune, saying not to go after the Ketchup division. Ray assures Don and Ken that he is happy with SCDP and walks out. Ken Wants to go after Ketchup anyways but Don reels him back in, saying, “Sometimes you gotta dance with the one that brung you.” Ken is unhappy with this response. Did Don do the right thing in keeping loyalty towards Ray and the Baked Beans division? This brings us back to earlier in the Mad Men seasons, when Don wanted to stay with Mohawk Airlines and Duck wanted to go after American Airlines. Ultimately they ended up without either airline. This makes me think that Don may have had this in his mind when he was explaining his rationale to Ken. We will have to wait for further episodes to see how this unfolds; however, what would you do in this situation? It would be easy to risk everything and go for broke, but would you be willing to lose the Baked Beans business? Don’s loyalty in business, though ironic, shows great concern for his clients and their best interests. When clients know you are in their corner, they fight for you in ways that you could never think of. Ray is testing Don’s loyalty and it looks like he is going to pass.     
  2. Loyalty for the good of the client: Don’s loyalty towards this work and what is right for the client is tested again in this episode but in a different way. One-third of his Jaguar client, Herb Rennet, is trying to poison the deal once again and thinks only about himself. Herb calls a meeting with Pete and Don to discuss changing all of the media buys and creative to favor his part of the business. Then he asks Don to pitch it to the rest of the team as their idea. Don knows this is not right and the work will suffer. He also knows that it will reflect poorly on the firm if they run with this plan. When the rest of the Jaguar team comes in for the final discussion before launch Don pulls a pitch move like we have never seen before, attempting to sell Herb’s idea but knowingly sounding very off base. The Jaguar team knows that this does not sound right for their luxury brand so they stay with the original decision as Don intended. This loyalty that Don showed exhibited what needed to be done for the good of the client. Sometimes what is asked of you and what is right do not always coincide.
  3. Loyalty towards work friends: Peggy Olson is on another one of her after-hours calls with Stan Rizzo, physically laughing, when her new boss walks in. Boss Ted Chaough kindly asks what was making her laugh. Stan was talking to her about the Heinz incident and SCDP not going after the Ketchup brand. The next day when she walks into the office, Ted has a folder for Peggy to prepare to go after Ketchup. Peggy says she cannot do that because she learned about it in confidence from a friend. Ted tells her “Maybe you need a friend more than you need a job,” ending the conversation with, “This is how wars are won.” Peggy is faced with a tough situation. Does she go after the potentially huge opportunity for the firm or stay loyal to her friend? If Peggy wants to stay at her current firm she will have to go after the account. Can she do that and still be loyal? Peggy is used to being loyal to Don Draper and SCDP, and that is one of the underlying issues here. Since SCDP is not going after the account, it would make the most sense to let Stan know that her firm is and leave it at that. That way she is letting her friend know their now-inside information while being loyal to her new boss. It may not be the war like Ted explained, since Don walked out with the white flag, but it will test Peggy’s loyalty.

These situations may play out very differently if Mad Men were set in today’s world. This idea of loyalty seems lost. What would you do if you were faced with these tough decisions? Would you rest on the laurels that your parents and grandparents taught you or would you take a chance?

Read the original article on the Talent Zoo blog Beyond Madison Ave at: http://www.talentzoo.com/beyond-madison-ave/blog_news.php?articleID=17337

How to Throw the Ultimate Mad Men Premiere Party

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mad_men_amc_tv_season_6Don those skinny ties and freshen up, it is Mad Men season. The highly anticipated season six of Mad Men is sure to break new ground, but since we have yet to know the year the show will be based in, let’s start where we left off. To throw a great Mad Men season premiere party you need a couple of things: friends, atmosphere and food. Let’s just assume you have the friends part covered and start with atmosphere, shall we?

To throw the ultimate Mad Men season six premiere party, there are a nine essentials to nail down, as follows:

  1. Music: Since music was one of the biggest reflections of 1960s culture it comes first on our list.  If you are a fan of the show you may already have a record player, but if not, ask a friend to bring one over. Next you want some great music to play. If you need records too, there are always local record shops happy to sell you some 45s (vintage singles). After all, it would not be very Mad Men of you to have a iPod playing the songs. However, if that is all you can find, it will do. Look for some of the billboard top 40 songs from the mid-1960s. If you are able to get a record player it is not a bad idea to pick up a copy of Jessica Pare singing Zou Bisou, Bisou on vinyl to really set the scene.
  2. Items from the set: What? How can I buy items from the show? You cannot. You can, however, find show-related items at local vintage or antique stores. In a recent excursion this weekend I went to four vintage shops and found a glass bottle of Patio, a lucky strike ad, a tie bar, a matchbook from a vintage Hilton Hotel, some skinny ties and a chip bowl made out of a 1960s Rolling Stones record. To throw a great Mad Men party you have to get creative, like Draper. Sometimes that means rummaging through someone’s old stuff. And yes, it is always worth it.
  3. Dress code: Set one. It is not only fun for a change but it keeps the atmosphere in check. If you do not want to buy clothes chances are you have something you can pull out of your closet that will fit the bill. Just watch the show for five minutes and you will get tons of ideas from Janie Bryant’s creative costume designs. Speaking of Bryant,  if you do not have anything in your closet, you can either go back to the vintage shops or pick up something from Janie’s new Banana Republic Mad Men collection. If all else fails, no jeans.
  4. Taste of the times: No pizza tonight folks. The food should reflect the era as well. That is not to say you must have a pot roast and baked Alaska. Just make sure that food ideas come from things that were popular or at least available in the 1960s. Assuming you are from a non-smoking household, grab a couple of packs of candy cigarettes.  Remember, this party is themed to stand out from a normal party at your house. Put a bowl of nuts out, unless you can find of bag of Utz potato chips. As a fan of Mad Men you may very well know, ‘Utz are better than nuts.’
  5. Remove the screens. Your TV is fine, of course, but leave smartphones and computers out of sight. You may actually remember how to interact with people without all of the modern distractions. Having a vintage phone in the kitchen would complete the look. This may be easier to find than you realize. I was able to find a mustard yellow rotary dial phone in my parent’s basement just a few weeks ago.
  6. Glimpse of the past. Achieve a glimpse into life in the 1960s by placing out a few vintage magazines on the ottoman. If nothing else, you and your friends will have a good laugh at all of the new and improved items that were all the rage back then. In my same excursion over the weekend I picked up 1966 editions of Life, Motor Trend, and Better Homes and Gardens magazines.
  7. Set the DVR. Two reasons here. The first is because if you miss any part of the episode while hosting the party you will probably want to catch up later. As an example, I think my wife and I watched a total of 10 minutes of the Super Bowl this year between the two of us. A second reason to set the DVR is to have some television on in the background. You can either play episodes of Mad Men season five from early morning reruns on AMC or 1960s programs that are currently on TV such as Dick Van Dyke, The Donna Reed Show, Andy Griffith, Bonanza, or Bewitched.
  8. Keep the party going. Cards were a popular way for adults to pass the time is years gone by. If you do not know how to play bridge, or you think it is just an efficient way to get over a body of water, charades was another popular game. You can also wander down to the art department and get some colored pencils for a lively game of Pictionary. Finally, as in Season 2 episode “The Jet Set,” you could play a game where one person names an international city and the next person has to use the last letter to name the next city, and so forth.
  9. Bar in your living room. I saved the best for last. You have secretly always wanted to do this and now you can; put a bar in your living room. Stock it heavily and get some tasty recipes from yesteryear. Start with the Mad Men cocktail guide or just do a little Google search for some of the classic drinks.  Heineken beer could also be on hand to pay homage to Betty’s around the world dinner party from the Season 2 Episode “A Night to Remember.”

The key is to have a different party-going experience. Try not to get wrapped up in the same party ideas, but please leave the John Deere riding lawnmower in the garage. For more tips, see the Mad Men Party Planner or watch any of the last five seasons of Mad Men for inspiration. And remember, no talking about the baby and Don gets the big steak.