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. This week’s episode, “The Gypsy and the Hobo,” was no exception.
There was one major professional topic in the office this week, Caldecott Farms. It seems that Caldecott Farms was a Sterling Cooper client for a long time, until a personal relationship between Roger Sterling and Annabelle Mathis, nee’ Caldecott, soured. At the time both companies were being run by Roger and Annabelle’s fathers. Now, 30 years later, things have changed.
Caldecott Farms, which makes dog food from horse meat, is reeling from a negative public perception due to the recent film, The Misfits, (not to be confused with The Misfits who were Glenn Danzig‘s first band-yes he did in fact make music before “Mother”), in which Clark Gable plays an aging horse rustler who steals and sells horses that are made into dog food.
Annabelle describes the situation as, ” Caldecott Farms had a public relations crisis followed by disastrous sales.”
The client would like to create a new name for horse meat. She makes the point that cow meat is called “beef,” chicken is called “poultry,” etc.
The rules are that you can’t change the recipe of the product, or the name of the product. Don Draper describes this as a “tall order.”
How tall it is is seen when the client and team are watching a focus group of consumers with their dogs who seem to be loving the food they are eating. When the focus group participants are told what the food is, the react angrily and denounce the company and the product.
The client is visibly shaken. Here’s the issue. There wasn’t a plan in place to deal with that. When someone is that close to a product, the company was founded by her father, they don’t always see what really happens with consumers. The Sterling Cooper team should have anticipated this. She knew that people were revolted and not buying her product, if the decision to include her in the focus group was to jolt her, it was the wrong one.
Understand that clients aren’t just a company. They are people. Especially if the company is theirs’ personally. Their whole lives are tied in with company and the brand. To the account team, it’s just another pitch. To them, it’s their life.