Agency Lessons from Mad Men Episodes #501 and 502 – “A Little Kiss”

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For the past few years, while watching Mad Men on AMC, I’ve been following up the episodes with blog posts about “Agency Lessons” that can be learned from that episode. Last week, I put them all together in one post.

Season five kicked off with a double episode that included many lessons for those of us that work in agencies:

– The episode opened with copy writers in the office of Young and Rubicam (a real world advertising agency often portrayed as the primary competitor to SCDP) dropping bags filled with water out their office window on civil rights protesters below (read the original article from the NY Times here, and yes the dialog in the lobby was real).  Don Draper and Roger Sterling follow this up with an “ad” in the NY Times that reads,

Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce

An equal opportunity employer. Our windows don’t open. We are committed to proving that Madison Avenue isn’t all wet.

They think it’s funny….until Joan Harris, the director of agency operations who is out on maternity leave, thinks she is being replaced, oh and twenty african american men and women show up in the lobby looking for a job.  Last month, I wrote about not expecting everyone to understand your sense of humor.  This is doubly important, when you are a bigot, and the times are changing, while you apparently, are not.

– The creative team led by Peggy Olson presented work to Heinz Baked Beans.  Let’s just say it wasn’t what the client wanted. Their feedback was, “It’s very artistic, and I want to be bold, but this isn’t what I had in mind when I was talking about a new generation of consumers.”  He asks, “Where’s the bite and smile?”  The standard food advertising shot making it very clear what you should do with the product and how it makes you feel.  The lesson here is that it’s always good to push the boundaries of creative but you have to know your client, and you need to have something safe in your back pocket.


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