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Agency Lessons from Mad Men Episode 701 – “Time Zones”

Image from AMCTV.com/MadMen

Image from AMCTV.com/MadMen

Mad Men is entering its prolonged last season and continues to include real issues faced by advertising (and yes PR firms) in an incredible show. If I wasn’t in this industry, I’m sure I would still be a fan of the show, but for me I get a bonus. I get to watch situations I encounter all the time dealt with by others. Mad Men continues to include real issues faced by advertising (and yes PR firms) in an incredible show. Throughout the course of the series I’ve written 23 posts about real world agency lessons from the show and here’s a few from “Time Zones:”

  • “Advertising might be a more effective if it’s better integrated into our business” – moving things in house. Change for change sake. “I was hired to be bold and I am prepared to make my recommendation.” This is what Joan is told when she meets with a current client who wants to bring all of their advertising in house. Joan ends up turning this around with a Monday morning phone call when she presents the client with reasons why an agency can do things he can’t do in house just yet. This could have been avoided if Joan had been adequately prepped for the meeting (and even if prepped sometimes you still get blindsided).
  • After Joan’s initial meeting with the client, who has an MBA, she goes to a third party expert, in education, for ideas and validation. We do this all the time and if you’re not, you should be.
  • We have apparently identified the exact moment when people moved from the handshake to the “professional hug.” It’s in the office, heck it’s onstage when someone meets the president, but we can point to this beginning when Pete greets Don in the coffee shop and Don sticks out his hand and Pete gives him what Seinfeld’s Uncle Leo would call a “firm embrace.”



Mad Men Returns April 13, 2014


Don Draper takes his children to the house he grew up in the final scene from last season.

Don Draper takes his children to the house he grew up in the final scene from last season.

The “final season” of Mad Men from AMC begins on April 13. I put final season in quotes s the last 14 episodes will be split over two years.  So, let’s call it a long goodbye.

In the meantime to get yourself ready, you can check out my posts about Mad Men and agency life over they years.  I’ve written quite a few.


Lesson from Mad Men Episode 605, “The Flood” : Showing Up Is A Big Part of Successfully Managing a Crisis

Christopher Stanley as Henry Francis in an image from AMCTV.com

Over the past few years, I’ve written posts about “Agency Lessons from Mad Men.”  I haven’t written about this season yet.  Part of it, is that nothing has jumped out at me.  Last night there was a point made offscreen about crisis management.

A driver of the episode was the tragic murder of  Martin Luther King Jr. and how this impacted the characters and New York.  That night and over the following days, riots ripped through many cities across America, but not New York.  Why?  One of the reasons was planning.  Mayor Lindsay had been building relationships with leaders in the African American community in Harlem for months.  Not just high profile leaders, but the people who were real influences on the streets.

When he heard about the assassination, the Mayor immediately went uptown to Harlem, jumped out of his car and walked through the streets talking with people. This was told through the voice of Betty‘s husband, Henry Francis, a Lindsay aide.  Here’s a great article from The Morning News about “The Night New York Avoided a Riot.”

Why is this applicable to agencies and PR?  I spend a lot of time right now on crisis communications, and one of the core tenets of effectively dealing with a crisis is having built alliances and relationships before you need them.  There’s a line in “Spy Game,” which is a somewhat forgettable movie but has a great quote delivered by Nathan Muir where he asks his assistant, “When Did Noah build the ark Gladys? Before the rain..before the rain.”

The other lesson in crisis communications, is showing up, being real and being accessible.  People are less likely to strike out when the object of their rage is a real person.  If it’s a faceless corporation, or a lack of authority, it’s easier for a mob mentality to take control.  By jumping out of the car and being there, Mayor Lindsay did the 1968 equivalent of a Reddit AMA or Twitter availability to deal with an online crisis in 2013.

So, the lessons from this week:

  • Build the ark, or make friends, before it rains; and
  • Don’t be afraid to be in front, be a person and be real.

Mad Men Returns April 7th!

I’ve written quite a bit about “Mad Men,” on AMC.  It’s coming back on April 7th for season six. I hope to be reprising my “Agency Lessons from Mad Men,” series.  In the meantime:


Agency Lessons from Mad Men episode 511 – “The Other Woman” – Don’t Be A Pimp

Image from AMCTV.com

I haven’t been documenting all of the agency lessons from Mad Men on AMC this season but there was one in episode 511, “The Other Woman,” that I had to touch.

This seems pretty straightforward, “Don’t be a pimp.”  This sounds easy but in the real world we aren’t often asked to have a colleague sleep with a prospective client as was asked of Pete Campbell in regards to Joan Harris to secure the Jaguar account.  We might be asked to do something else that goes against our morals or even just against our gut.

When money is being waved at you, it’s sometimes may seem easy to bend your code to make something happen.  It’s not worth it.  In my experience, it will come back to you. Maybe not right away, but it will bite you.  If you need more support, just listen to the advice of the “narrator,” in “True Romance,” “Every pimp in the world gets shot.”  In this case, given Pete’s foreshadowing with guns this season, I wouldn’t bet against it.


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