You don’t always have to agree…

but you’ve got to participate. A few weeks ago, I participated in a Social Media Roundtable sponsored by the Sacramento Business Journal.

I didn’t agree with everyone else in the room, but I had a good time talking with them and listening to what they had to say.  Kelly Johnson of The Sacramento Business Journal wrote an article about the discussion. Check it out.

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Agency Lessons from Mad Men Episode 410 – “Hands and Knees”

Image from AMCTV.com

I’m not writing weekly “Agency Lessons,” after every episode of Mad Men any longer, but this week’s episode, “Hands and Knees,” called for it.

At the core of the story of Mad Men are secrets. Don‘s secret of who he really is, Roger and Joan‘s secret about how they feel (don’t ask me if I think she went through with the abortion – she didn’t), Pete and Peggy‘s secret about a child they will never know, and Lee Garner Jr.’s secret about he felt about Sal.

All of those secrets are personal, but all impact business.  It’s OK to not share everything with your colleagues but some things have to be shared. Like let’s say for instance when a client, Lucky Strike, that represents 70% of your revenue is going away as of just about immediately.

So what did we learn this week?

  • Secrets aren’t just yours when you run a company
  • Read everything that you sign

Secrets

Lee Garner Jr. told Roger over a meal that Lucky Strike was consolidating all of their work with BBDO and that there was nothing that Roger could do to change that.  Roger begged for and received a one month reprieve, but no change in status.

At the partners’ meeting a few days later, when the team was going through a review of accounts, Roger just gave a thumbs up when asked about Lucky Strike.  Here’s where it gets complicated.  His thinking is that he wants to have something else to give the agency when he tells them they are losing Lucky Strike so he spends late nights on the phone going through his Rolodex calling everyone he knows, and seemingly hasn’t talked to in a while since one of them has apparently died, trying to drum up business.

So now, since he is failing thus far in drumming up replacement business the rest of the team doesn’t know how dire their situation will become when they walk away from a potential $4m client due to Don’s failure to read what he signed.

Read Everything That You Sign

A few weeks ago I wrote about a form sent home from school that included a blanket media release for the use of my children in anything produced by or at the school. I didn’t approve.  That was buried in many other back to school papers being signed.  I sign a lot of things at work as well although I’m sure not as much as Mr. Draper.

The lesson here though is related to a form authorizing a background check and verifying certain points about Mr. Draper/Whitman for the US Department of Defense background check.  Granted, it seems that they were looking for communists, not deserters from military service, but they probably wouldn’t have been happy to find one of those either.  His assistant filled out the form and he signed it like he signed lots of things, probably with his mind on something else.  It doesn’t take too long to read what you are signing. ALWAYS READ IT ALL!

Side note:  If Lucky Strike is gone, will this mean Sal will be coming back?

“Instant” Hit from El Dorado Hills

Photo from El Dorado Hills Village Life

A few weeks ago, Google introduced “Google Instant,” which creates dynamic search results as you type.  Shortly afterward, “Youtube Instant,” was born at ytinstant.com. It’s a cool technology story, especially since it was created in just a few hours by two college students.

One of the creators, a student at Stanford, was offered a job by Chad Hurley of Youtube.  There’s only one problem, he’s already an intern at Facebook.  But besides that, the reason this is really cool is that Feross Aboukhadije is from El Dorado Hills and was the co-valedictorian in 2008.

So, as you complain about the traffic from Oak Ridge High School as you drive down Silva Valley Parkway, take a minute to think that one of those students that just cut you off, might be two years from changing how people do things online.

Would political ads be different if politicians had to voice them?

Earlier this week Meg Whitman added a bit more of her own money to her campaign war chest and became the “biggest ever campaign self-spender,” according to the Sacramento Bee.

Personally, I’m not opposed to someone spending their own money to be elected to office.  What I am opposed to is where the money is going.  I’m being over-run with negative TV ads for the California governor and Senate races.  It’s not just one party doing it, both are responsible.  The ads this election cycle seem to be reaching further and further from substance and seem to be going out of their way to make fun of the opposing candidates.

I think I might have a solution.  We’re all familiar with the taglines in the candidates’ voice that appears at the end of all television and radio political ads, saying their name and that they “approved this message.”  What if all campaign ad voice overs had to be in the candidates voice? If that were the case do you think the Whitman and Brown campaigns respectively would have distributed the ads below?  Would you be able to vote for someone if you heard them saying the things contained in these ads?  I wouldn’t.

Mad Men – Episode 407 – The Suitcase – Alcohol and Watching Your Own Show

I’m still watching Mad Men, but I’m not writing up weekly synopses of “Agency Lessons,” for every episode. If I see something particularly telling to me, I’ll write about it.  Tonight on Episode 407, “The Suitcase,” we saw Don Draper puking in the toilet in his office after drinking way too much, for way too long.  Oh, and by the way he was with his protege Peggy Olson, while puking all over his shirt and the bathroom.

After leaving the bathroom, Don encounters Duck Phillips, who in a drunken stupor has come to the office to try and woo Peggy back romantically and to work with him since he has been fired by Grey, presumably due to his drinking after he was escorted out of the Clios after making a fool of himself. So, the two strong male role professional role models in Peggy’s life end up in a sloppy drunken tussle on the floor and she has to try and break it up.

One of the themes in this season of Mad Men has been the crutch of alcohol and the effect it has had on the characters, Don, Duck, and Roger Sterling) who are having trouble adapting to a changing world.  When Mad Men debuted, the “cocktail culture,”was portrayed as urbane, sophisticated and cool.  Now, with Don and Roger regularly drunk in the office and their drinking having a marked negative effect on the success of the office, it’s starting to look a lot less cool to have a well used bar in your office.

After watching an hour of downward spiral with an alcohol chaser, AMCTV ends the show with a promo for their “Cocktail Culture,” iPhone App, and a promotion for their site AMCTV.com/cocktail to learn how to make a ” virtual cocktail, you can drink it yourself and also share your results with a friend. Just for fun or when getting ready for the next episode of Mad Men, this app lets you master the art of cocktail making — in Mad Men style.”

What I just saw was that “Mad Men style,” is being too drunk to do good work, hold a job, or act like a responsible human.  So, AMC, why don’t you take a different lesson from advertising, watch the show, before you stick an ad on that really doesn’t make any sense.

AMC wants us to see cocktails as cool:

Image from AMCTV.com

But what we really saw, was a broken man, with puke on his tailored, french cuffed shirt:

Image from AMCTV.com

Sometimes you have to slow down and just watch

I just read a profile of Bill Neukom in the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Neukom is currently the CEO of the San Francisco Giants, but prior to that spent 25 years as legal counsel for Microsoft.  He started advising the company when his employer, Bill Gates Sr., asked him to advise his son’s company, which had 12 employees. He stuck around and ended up leading Microsoft legal before retiring as EVP, Law and Corporate Affairs.  This post isn’t about law though, it’s about baseball, and maybe a little more.

The end of the profile talks about a new hitting drill the Giants are trying out:

“There is [also] a technology of colored tennis balls that come out of a pitching machine. You’re in a batting cage, and into the machine [a technician] feeds bright yellow tennis balls and bright red tennis balls [with] black Arabic numerals on them. The first thing [the batter does] is … watch. After a while, you can call the color. And then they say, don’t swing, just watch it, give me a number. Red seven. Yellow three.

Your brain and your eyes are adjusting to things coming at very fast speeds. The whole point is to shrink the blind spot for the hitter and to slow down the pitch, so that when you’re seeing a white baseball coming at you, you can have a better chance of seeing its rotation, knowing what kind of pitch it is, and, most importantly, where it’s going to go in that last few critical feet before it gets over the plate.”

To become better at hitting, sometimes you have to not swing. Sounds very much like business and life advice to me.