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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

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

Working Through a Client Crisis: Mad Men Philosophies

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Sunday night’s premiere episode of Mad Men showed Peggy in a new light. In her new role she is reminiscent of a young Don Draper in Season 1. This episode, though very entertaining, teaches its professional viewers a thing or two about working through a client crisis. The episode was focused on a campaign for Koss headphones called “Lend Me Your Ears” that was pulled after an unfortunate incident in the Vietnam War. When Peggy was unable to reach the firm’s partner to figure out how to handle the situation, she was left to her own devices.

Working through a client crisis is no picnic, especially when it’s a crisis as socially unacceptable as what she would have had to deal with. Peggy losing out on Christmas vacation is nothing out of the ordinary for many ad agencies today. Here are five things to learn from Peggy Olson on how to best working through a client crisis:

  1. Accept the crisis. Do not get in the way of yourself. By acting upset you are simply wasting time and energy. Move on. When Peggy was presented with this situation she was frustrated but kept it together. She was diligent in sticking to her process of what works, going back to a method that Draper taught her about writing a letter to someone about how much she loved the product.
  2. Open your eyes. Sometimes the best answer is right in front of you. When her live-in boyfriend Abe brought dinner, she did not kick him out. She wanted him to stay and asked him to listen to the music and describe what he heard through the Koss headphones. When she saw Abe bobbing his head to the music she remembered some video footage that came out of her initial session for the “Lend Me Your Ears” campaign. She used what she observed towards the ad. When you open your eyes, many times you will find the answers in the most unexpected circumstances.
  3. Do not try to rebuild Rome. Rome was not built in a day and it could not be rebuilt in a day, either. Developing an advertisement takes thought and time. It is important to use the resources that are around you. As we see here, the ad did not need to be adjusted that much. In the end, it was a much stronger ad. It almost makes you wonder how close you actually are to a much stronger ad when you think you have a good one.
  4. Confidence. Have confidence in yourself and your team to take care of the situation. The client told Peggy what to do but she only considered it as an option and not a great ad. Peggy showed the confidence that she had in herself and the team, reassuring the client that they would have a new ad in time for the Super Bowl. Showing confidence allows others to trust in what you believe is right. It makes a big difference in almost any situation, whether it is business or life.
  5. Go the extra mile. Let’s face it. Peggy got lucky with the extra footage to prevent a reshoot. Next time you have an ad, go the extra mile and keep other material on hand from the start. Shoot a little extra or write a little more just in case. Once the ad is complete, it may even be worth revisiting a couple days later to bring a fresh set of eyes to it. The key here is to be ready for anything at a moment’s notice. After all, you would rather put a little more into an idea up front and prevent a future crisis, wouldn’t you?

Have you been in a similar situation as Peggy Olson from Mad Men? How have you dealt with the situation? What could you have done better?

Read the original article on the Talent Zoo blog Beyond Madison Avenue at: http://www.talentzoo.com/beyond-madison-ave/blog_news.php?articleID=17306