“Someone named Emerson Foote” – Agency Lessons From Mad Men Episode 412 “Blowing Smoke”


Image from AMCTV.com


Sterling, Cooper Draper and Pryce is reeling from losing their largest client, Lucky Strike Tobacco.  They are being dropped by current clients, and shunned by new business prospects who aren’t sure if they’ll survive.



Don Draper takes it upon himself to write an open letter as a full-page ad in The NY Times entitled, “Why I’m Quitting Tobacco.”

Image from AMCTV.com

The idea for the letter came from a suggestion that Peggy Olson made that perhaps if they don’t like what is being said, they should, “change the conversation.” Don changed it from “we got dumped,” to we know cigarettes are addictive in many ways to many people including us.

The real inspiration was hidden in a comment from his assistant when he asked if there had been any calls the morning the ad ran,” Yes, quite a few, mostly from reporters and citizens, Dr. Miller….and someone named Emerson Foote.”

If the name seems familiar, it may be because his name is still associated with one of the most successful advertising agencies of all time Foote, Cone & Belding (now DraftFCB).

One of Mr. Foote’s early jobs in advertising was on the American Tobacco account. He later became an anti-smoking advocate and resigned the account, which at the time was one of the largest account resignations in advertising history.

The ad by Don made the phone ring.  Might mean new business, might mean the end of the agency.  No matter what, he changed the conversation.

For more on Emerson Foote, here’s an article about him from Time in 1967, and his obituary from the NY Times when he died at age 85 in 1992.


One thought on ““Someone named Emerson Foote” – Agency Lessons From Mad Men Episode 412 “Blowing Smoke”

  1. Don did make the phone ring in a Jerry Maguire way. I am not sure if he knew what he was doing exactly but I admire the way to resolve looking desperate and he just put into writing what everyone was thinking and he might have tarnished the competition.

    This was a positive way to say something was bad and going to kill something and stagnant at the same time. The ship was sinking anyway so what difference is it going to make to voice your opinion? Plus, he did go Jerry Maguire like!

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