Agency Lessons from Mad Men Episode 304 “The Arrangements”

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, “The Arrangements”  hit on several big marketing related themes:

Know who you’re talking to:

The Sterling Cooper team is shown talking a prospective client who would like to spend $3m on promoting the sport of Jai-Alai.  Turns out the prospective client is the son of a very wealthy friend of the agency founder Bert CooperDon Draper chooses to bring the matter to the attention of Cooper and his friend.  Even though, the father chooses to go let them go-ahead, he does so, with what I read as the intention that his son is going to fail.

Make decisions:

The director slated for the Patio soda commercial drops out to direct another commercial, the account team is at a loss and goes to Don Draper.  Don, gives the responsibility to Sal Romano who had created the storyboards for the shoot.  This is a big leap for Sal, although not as big as he took in a hotel room in Baltimore.

Don’t always give the client exactly what they asked for:

Patio asked for an ad that was an exact copy of the opening credits of the film “Bye-Bye Birdie.”  Sterling Cooper, with Sal directing, delivered exactly that. The client then says, “I appreciate that, but I don’t know it’s not what I thought it was going to be.”  This is a big issue. One of the most important services an agency can provide is understanding what is right and what is not.  Sterling Cooper agreed to film exactly what the client asked for, knowing that it was not a good idea.  My recommendation would have been to film exactly what the client said they wanted, and then what Sterling Cooper thought was right.  Then, after the client was disappointed, they could show their recommendation, and possibly keep the account, instead of having it walk away. Turns out the client was in love with Ann Margaret, not the song.

Sell a Dream:

Perhaps the most important lesson was given by Joan Holloway to Peggy Olson in regards to Peggy’s ad for a new roommate.  The ad was describing Peggy, and not what the prospective roommate wanted to be.  “This is about two young girls in Manhattan, this is about adventure,” as opposed to “clean, responsible considerate, I have some nice furniture and a small television.”  Sell the dream, not the appliances.


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