Agency lessons from Mad Men Episode 303 “My Old Kentucky Home”


In “My Old Kentucky Home,” some of the Sterling Cooper crew, mostly the account management side and of course Don Draper from creative, visit a garden party for the Kentucky Derby put on by agency partner Roger Sterling, while the rest of the creative team is working in the office over the weekend.

One of my favorite lines of the episode was delivered by Draper, when he arrived at the garden party that was taking place in an elaborate tent set upon an expansive lawn.  Pete Campbell, the manor-born but perpetually weak co-head of accounts, saunters up to Draper and trys to casually make it clear that he knows who’s who;

“That portly fellow in the Glen Plaid, second at DuPont. The one next to him, Pan Am.”

He delivers this line while Draper dismissively lights a cigarette.  Draper then pats him on the elbow and admonishes,”Don’t hand out your card,” as he walks away in search of better conversation.

This is an important lesson for people just getting started in business, and one that way too many people never learn.  Even if a social situation provides opportunities for a hard sell, don’t.  Let you and your experience make the connection, not the fact that you work for the agency headed by the person throwing the party. Since Roger Sterling is throwing the party, odds are he knows the gentlemen from DuPont and Pan Am pretty well.  A relatively junior staffer attempting to put on a hard sell will be embarrassing for all.

Note – as to the members of the Sterling Cooper team that spent the weekend at office with some added creativity provided by certain substances – rumor has it that something similar happened in the conference room one time at the first agency where I worked, but of course I was not there.


Working With #42 – Ronnie Lott & Trench Fantasy Football

In high school, I had a 49ers jersey. It was #42.  Ronnie Lott.  I had the jersey because the 49ers were my favorite team and because of how #42 played the game. He was all-out all the time.  Whenever the 49ers were on defense and a play happened, #42 was there.

So, imagine me a few weeks ago sitting in a meeting, talking with Ronnie Lott.  He does business the same way he played football, all out, and he looks for business partners that play the same way.  That’s why #42 is now part of the team at Trench Fantasy.

Ronnie Lott, Hall of Famer and Trench Fantasy Ambassador
Ronnie Lott, Hall of Famer and Trench Fantasy Ambassador

He’s bringing a team of other veterans of The Trenches along with him to help us make a better game and help more people learn about Trench Fantasy. Who are these other players we’re working with?

•    Derrick Deese – 13 year stalwart offensive tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Super Bowl Champion San Francisco 49ers;
•    Gary Plummer – Legendary linebacker for the San Diego Chargers and San Francisco 49ers with 1,029 tackles and one Super Bowl ring over 12 seasons;
•    Brentson Buckner – 12 year career as a defensive tackle with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers included starting in 13 playoff games and two Super Bowls;
•    Brian Baldinger – 11 year career as an offensive tackle and guard with the Philadelphia Eagles, Indianapolis Colts (where he was the team’s Most Valuable Lineman in 1991) and Dallas Cowboys.

Whether you were a fan of the 49ers, the Raiders, the Jets, or heck you might even have hated all of those teams, but you had to admire the way Ronnie Lott played the game. Now you can join Ronnie and play the game he plays, sign up and play Trench Fantasy now.


Client service lessons from Mad Men Episode 302 “Love Among the Ruins”


Mad Men 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. Tonight’s episode, “Love Among the Ruins,”  hit on several big marketing related themes:

– Client service

– Advertising vs. PR

– Agency acquisition

Client Service:

Peggy Olson – “Clients don’t always know what’s best.”

Ken Cosgrove – “When we land them you can start talking to them that way.”

I viewed this through the lens of prospective clients who come to us and say something along the lines of, “we want a blog.”  When you ask them why they might say because it worked for a competitor, or they’ve heard that’s what they need.  What they need to do is understand their customers and understand how to reach them.  Not everyone wants to hear that. Sometimes they just want what they’ve already seen.

Advertising vs. PR:

Don Draper in talking to the prospective client from Madison Square Garden about addressing the concerns of what is termed a “vocal minority,” opposed to tearing down Penn Station to build the new arena.

Don Draper – “Your concern over public opinion shows a guilty conscience…PR people understand this but can never execute it, if you don’t like what is being said, change the conversation.”

Theoretically this might have been true at some time. But it’s definitely not now. The “vocal minority,” or “lunatic fringe,” as one of my clients long ago so warmly described them can now amplify their voice to a level that may belie their actual numbers. Ignore them at your peril. Don’t try and put one over on them by changing the conversation.  Actually the right way to deal with the situation is brought up by Draper later in the episode while discussing a family matter, he says, “I am going to let you go out there and tell your sister that this is what you want and we’ll pretend you did the right thing on your own.”  Work with antagonists to help them understand the situation and why you feel the way you do. Advertising, too often tries to do it with muscle and sleight of hand, in PR we’d rather do it with finesse and participation.

One of the big ironies of the above is the above demolition of Penn Station led to the creation of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, an action that a good PR counselor might have advised beforehand.

Agency Acquisition:

After winning the account, Don Draper is instructed by his new UK overlords that he must turn down the business because, “there is conflict.” After pushing he learns that the UK office doesn’t see the immediate benefit of serving a client that may not immediately provide huge revenue. Never mind the prestige of working on the account, or the potential for growth, all they care about is the immediate bottom line. Below is the end of the exchange between Draper and the local exec from the UK.

“Why the hell did you buy us in the first place?”
I don’t know.

I’ve been part of agency acquisitions and have seen several from the outside.  Believe me, that exchange may have been the most real-life one ever on this show.

Note – the above situations, and my analysis, are obviously simplified but definitely provide great starting points for discussions about agency life and client service.

Who do you trust with your data?

I recently saw a note from a friends saying, “Hard drive is fried, hope they can save my stuff.”  The question here is, who are “they.”  When the hard drive on our family iMac finally gave up the ghost about a year and half ago (this was a 5.5 year old computer), we had some serious data recovery needs. What does that mean? It means we hadn’t backed up our thousands of family pictures and thousands of songs well enough. Data recovery from a damaged hard drive is a somewhat messy process.  The process also includes whomever is doing the recovery to have access to any information they can recover from the hard drive. This might be pictures, it might be music, but it might lso be bank account numbers, password lists, credit card numbers etc.  This is serious stuff!

In our case, a friend, Brent Sallee, runs his own Mac-consulting and repair business, MacClicks, and we trusted him to recover what he could.  He was able to provide us with several CDs and DVDs worth of content that he was able to save.  The thing is, we had someone we knew well that we could trust to go rooting around in our private data.  Would you trust someone you don’t know who is getting paid just above minimum wage at a chain electronics retailer to do that for you? My guess is not.

This is is why, if you don’t have a good friend that you trust to do this kind of work, you find someone you CAN trust.  If you are in the Fairfield/Vacaville/Suisun area a person you can trust is Jim Carden who runs 1036Forensics. He’s a police officer and military intelligence officer and you can trust him to do the right thing with your data.

Find the person you know and trust in your area before your hard drive dies. Makes life a whole lot easier.

Social Media Club – Social Media & Crime

I’m the programming guy for the Sacramento chapter of the Social Media Club which means I help identify topics for the meetings and line up speakers.  It’s always fascinating the people that I meet when putting together the topics, and speakers for each meeting, but even more fascinating is what I learn from the speakers.

Tonight’s topic was Social Media & Crime, how law enforcement agencies are using social media to fight crime.

The first speaker was Detective James Carden of Fairfield, California PD and 1036Forensics.  Detective Carden talked quite a bit about how they started their social media program within the department after an unwanted predatory approach on a child via MySpace.  The department set up a MySpace page and started using it as a way to interact with the community. It has now become a news source about crime in the community as many in the area do not read newspapers. Additionally, it has become a source of leads as many people feel more comfortable approaching the police department in a medium they are comfortable with. As Det. Carden said, “There are lots of people that would never flag me down in a police cruiser to talk with me but they have no problem sending me a message on MySpace to tell me something.”

To me the most important part of his talk was the discussion of the “#1 Friend Program.”  He encourages parents to have teens and tweens on MySpace list the Fairfield PD or other local law enforcement agency as their first friend.  He likens this to a police car being parked on a block.  It may provide just enough incentive for someone who was looking to cause trouble to move on.  This is an outstanding idea. It’s cheap. It’s easy to do and it can have a huge impact.  I recommend all my friends in law enforcement check it out.

The second speaker was Director Mike Belcher of the University of the Pacific Department of Public Safety. This is a sworn police department that serves the University in an urban setting. One of the key takeaways from Director Belcher was that the University uses information published on student and organization event pages on social networks such as Facebook to plan and communicate with student groups who are planning parties.  The other point brought up was that social media enables Public Safety to be able cut off inaccurate information about crimes or events that may be circulating around campus. Through the use of Twitter and Facebook they can nip rumors in the bud.

Thank you to both of these officers for sharing their time with our group.

For more information about Social Media Club in Sacramento and upcoming events, follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

Twitter Updates from the Past Week 8/10-8/16/09

I’ve seen a few people doing this on their blog as a way to aggregate their online content and thoughts.  I’m trying it, not sure if I’ll keep doing it.  Would love feedback on what others think of this. Twitter updates are arranged with the most recent first.