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Mad Men Season 2 Finale and the Future of Social Media

October 29, 2008

[This is a guest post by a collegue of mine at EMA]

If you watched the season finale of Mad Men on Sunday night you might have connected the obvious similarities between the doomsday distractions of 1962 with the ominous overture of the current economic challenges of 2008. However, there was a particular dialogue that struck my attention.


In one scene a large conglomerate from London meets with the fictitious agency, Sterling-Cooper, to discuss merger plans. Duck Philips, chief architect of the deal, is named President of the ‘new’ Sterling-Cooper. The following offers his portrayal, attitude and philosophy and others’ responses, of his ‘vision for the future.’

Duck: “I’ll continue to treat the founders with the respect they deserve…Good creative is important but it can’t run the show. Our business is about selling time and space.”

Bert: “I don’t think I heard the word ‘client’ once.”

Duck: “…There’s no reason for us to be tied to creative’s fantasies of persuasion.

Don: “If this is the agency you want, Duck is the man for the job. But it’s not an agency I plan to be a part of.”

Set in 1962, Duck references television as the new medium that can be the goldmine for selling ‘time and space.’ In 2008 the same conversation could be applied to new media: blogs, microblogs, social networks, etc. What’s important here is that we can’t forget about the essence of what makes an agency successful. Sure, to be profitable we surely have to develop tools that we can sell as ‘time and space,’ thus generating revenue dollars.

Bert Cooper, a founder and senior partner of Sterling-Cooper, highlights the key point and Don Draper, partner and creative director, underscores its importance. The characters of Bert and Don are client driven – focused on helping clients – (who by the way are real people) – solve their problems and unlock their selling potential, and full brand appeal. This is what sets the fictitious agency, Sterling-Cooper, and the enigmatic Don Draper apart from the ‘other’ slew of shops on Madison Avenue.

It’s not purely about money created from time and space. We’re not pushing or selling boxes. We’re creating ideas – ideas that our clients and their customers can truly believe in. Sure, PR Newswire and others are developing quick, ‘packaged’ products that are designed to ‘solve’ your social media problems. The problem is – social media isn’t about creating a one-size fits all approach like the quick, yet regretful Hot Pocket you had for a late night snack. It’s the most client, customer driven medium that we’ve encountered – and it’s essential that it is driven by the client’s specific needs and situations – not based on a formula or approach that will drive pure revenue. It’s certainly an opportunity. Let’s just not forget – the client will always be relevant – and so are the so called ‘fantasies of persuasion.’

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Rosie permalink
    March 17, 2009 3:10 pm

    It’s about BOTH . . . not one or the other. And that is something that Don and Duck seem incapable of understanding.

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