I really like Mad Men. No, I love Mad Men. Not since the Sopranos have I looked so forward to Sunday nights. Sure Entourage is a great show, and Californication is in a league of its own, but nothing touches Mad Men. This week’s season premiere was excellent, made even better by the episode’s official name: Public Relations. In fact I was playing with the idea of naming this post “I feel like Don Draper” but I’d immediately be setting myself up for Don Draper comparisons and even I know, I’m no Don Draper.
There were two story-lines in Sunday’s episode where I felt a particular kinship with The Don; one being a discussion with a prospective client who makes swimsuits (Jantzen) and the other an interview with Advertising Age. In both instances I felt a connection with the character and was cheering him on like a crazed NFL fan on a Sunday afternoon. First – the swimsuits.
Jantzen met with Draper’s new firm to discuss how the bathing suit company could compete with a rival manufacturer capturing massive mind-share with their new bikinis. Claiming to be a company with morals/values, Jantzen didn’t want to “lower” themselves to making bikinis, so they created a more conservative two-piece (read: me too product) and wanted Draper’s help marketing it. Draper knew the only way to compete was to make the Jantzen suit appear more alluring than the competitors bikini – but the client wouldn’t have such a campaign. After hearing their push-back Draper asks the men: Do you want women who buy bikinis to buy your two piece? Or do you just wanna make sure women who want to buy a two piece don’t suddenly buy a bikini?
As fun as it is to have an excuse to write about bikinis, this is not a post about bathing suits, rather it’s about having the balls to tell the client, or prospective client, what they DON’T want to hear – even if it means not getting the business. Draper had “had it” with the Jantzen dudes and just before tossing them out of his office he says, “Your competitors are going to keep killing you because you’re too scared of the skin your two-piece was designed to show off.”Â Â Countless times we’ve heard from companies who claim they want to be different or make a talked about splash, but they don’t really have the courage to do it. I assume this comes from fear: fear of their board, investors, the CEO, fear that they may offend, fear their product could get banned, etc. (Side note: if you have a consumer product and it gets banned somewhere – especially in schools – it’s the BEST thing you could ask for – awesome PR). Anyway I applauded Draper for calling BS on the situation and recognizing this client would have been a nightmare, no matter what they paid. More people should take lessons from Don Draper; it’s more valuable than anything taught by PRSA. Next up – the interview.
Being a firm believer that PR agencies shouldn’t do press for themselves because NOBODY CARES, I was ecstatic when Draper refused to give a reporter from Ad Age any info about himself. Draper kindly told the reporter “where I’m from we were taught it’s not polite to talk about yourself”. Good for you Don Draper. IfÂ a fictional advertising man understands this concept, how is it that “in the flesh” agency heads just don’t get it? I am so tired of PR firms spewing -blah blah blah blahÂ – nonsense people don’t care about: we hired this smart person, we took over another floor in the building, we volunteered – etc. It’s all bullshit folks and has no impact on a client’s bottom line.Â
I can’t wait to see what happens this season at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and what thought provoking nuggets Draper will come up with next. I’ll close with one of my favorite Don Draper quotes: “You’re born alone and you die alone and this world drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts, but I never forget. I’m living like there is no tomorrow…because there isn’t one.”Â Â Enough said.