Home > Uncategorized > On “Mad Men” and Agency Change

On “Mad Men” and Agency Change

The first episode of Mad Men‘s season two aired last night on AMC.  I love this show.  It’s witty, smart, clever and has the right balance of drama and style that really can suck a person in to the point where they truly care about the characters involved. Everything about the show is superbly handled…particularly when it comes to characters grappling with the changes taking place across their lives and their professions.

The main character, Don Draper, is feeling these changes rather intensely.  He is told to find new talent, and to embrace the emerging youth culture, because the world around him is doing the same.  The culture moved from President Eisenhower to President Kennedy during the gap between seasons.  This created a brand-new youth-oriented cultural movement that Draper can either embrace, or dismiss.  He seems to be choosing a spot somewhere in the middle, by reading new books by poets of the time or bringing 23-year-old self-proclaimed “whiz kids” because “clients are demanding youth”…but he’s not buying into this movement just yet.

I personally experienced a situation like this years ago. I worked in a PR agency in Washington, DC in 1994, well into the age of the personal computer but before the age of the Internet.  My manager, a real hardass with no sense of humor (had to smile when Draper told a colleague that there needed to be “advertising for people with no sense of humor”), told me to write up a proposal for a client who needed some professional services help.  One of the line items that we were going to charge the customer for was typesetting press release copy. Even in 1994 everything was printed on laser printers, so I had to ask, “Alan, are you kidding me?  Typesetting?  Nobody typesets any more.”  Which brought a blank stare, like I was the biggest idiot on the planet, and he dismissed me with a “fine, take it off.”

Alan didn’t last at that agency much longer.

There’s no way that Alan, living with the way he had done PR for so long, would have adapted to the Internet age with that old-school way of thinking.  Don Draper is in for the same ride.  And so are all the marketers and “PR experts” who are not embracing Web 2.0 technologies, but instead are relying on the same old tricks to get their messages out.  They are going to be left behind, stuck in the glory of yesterday.

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