By Kenny Meek
Five Learnings from Mad Men
Over the past month, I’ve been re-watching the AMC series ‘Mad Men’. I make dinner, sit down and tuck into an hour of advertising, solicitation and drama fronted by the infamous Don Draper.
I made this decision for two reasons: the first is that it’s just a really great show that anyone working in this industry should watch. The second is that because I’m now reasonably acquainted with the ad industry and it’s history, I’ll likely enjoy the references made throughout this six season binge more.
What I didn’t expect was the amount of learnings I would take from it. I’ve actually considered having a notepad handy from now on, because there’s so much to bite my teeth into. Every episode features anything from an amazing pitch to a tidbit about McCann, Y&R or even DDB.
So here are some of the things Mad Men has taught me:
1: Collaboration is King
The first series of the show is set in the 1960s, and things are very different to how they are now. Partnerships aren’t really a thing. Copy tends to lead ideas, and art appears as a fairly redundant aspect of any given campaign. We see the famous ‘Lemon’ advert in series one – an ad that truly embraces the collaboration of art and copy. It blows anything our characters have created out the water. As the series progresses, we see art and copy come together more and the company in which Draper works for excells.
2: Get Noticed
All of the characters that we either root for or hate are always trying to achieve one thing; progression up the corporate ladder. We see a secretary become a talented copywriter, a suit chipping in on ideas, and an account executive writing a short story. Everyone is working hard, and it ultimately pays off.
3: Be Brave
Clients won’t always like what you have to say. Sometimes the work doesn’t meet their standards. Sometimes the work isn’t to their taste, and sometimes the work ‘just isn’t right’. At the end of the day, we’re paid professionals. We’re experts. We only want our campaigns to shine. Draper fights for his ideas, and never backs down. If only we all had the same attitude.
4: Have Fun
This is the most exciting industry in the world. Like the employees of Sterling Cooper, we should be embracing all the chaos that advertising entails. Late nights, huge parties, awards and tomfoolery. We work hard, so why not play hard? After all, work should be fun.
5: Pitch Like Don Draper
We see many client pitches by our hero/villain. He captures the imagination of Heinz, Kodak, Jaguar and Lucky Strike. He uses emotion and holds their hearts in the palm of his hand. To be a great ad man, you also have to be a great storyteller. You need to grip onto your clients and take them on an adventure. In a recent pitch, myself and my partner tried to emulate this, and the reaction couldn’t have been better. Thanks Don.
So those are my top five, now I’m off to watch another episode.