Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Am I a Mad Man? colleague of mine hit me off about a show called "Mad Men." Yes, that show. The one that everyone seems to be talking about - well at least those in the PR/ad business. I caught a glimpse of the first episode of season two on Sunday and was instantly hooked. I decided download the entire season 1 to catch up. I mostly found it interesting because I'm in the same line of business. So I thought to myself, am I a Mad Man?

I plan on blogging my thoughts on the episodes and how they relate to the PR business. Here are my first reactions of season 1, episode 1.

Lung Cancer Anyone?
MAN, do the smoke a lot. I'm surprised the actors haven't gotten lung cancer already.

Male Domination
It amazes me how male dominated the business was back then. When I say dominate, I mean dominate. I couldn't believe what the male characters (and even the female characters) were saying to the ladies in the office. There's NO WAY that stuff would fly in the current working environment. These days, the PR business is dominated by women. At each of the agencies I've worked for, women far out numbered the men. And in terms of the environment being PC...for the most part it is. There tends to be a bit more openness to wise cracks, off-color remarks, etc. in the PR business than on the client side (I've worked both). So that really hasn't changed since the time frame of Mad Men, but it's most definitely NOT the same.

Race Card
At one point, the team needed a Jewish person to chum up the cigarette exec who was coming in for a meeting (apparently the exec was Jewish). They ended up pulling a kid up from the mail room. Imagine pulling a stunt like that these days? Hey, let's grab Martelli. He's an Italian. He likes pasta. He'd be perfect for this Barilla pitch. Maybe this has turned into the best practices approach where you find the best person for the team based on experience and obviously NOT on ethnicity or religious background.

- The first episode deals with a mental block Don, the main character, is having around a campaign for Lucky Strikes cigarettes. Basically, all the health concerns are legit and are hurting the business. He can't figure out a way around the road block. This happens often in PR where you're faced with a stumbling block that is irrefutable, but has to be defeated because that's what your clients are paying you to do. There's always a way to spin something. Don the genius, as I'll call him, gets around the health issues by realizing that hey, all of the cigarette makers are up against the same problem. Let's move in another direction. He then comes up with the concept, "Lucky Strikes: It's Toasted." The idea here is that Lucky had to own something in order to get their customers to continue to buy the brand. What were they going to own? If all cigarettes are the same, what can we say that sets us apart? While other cigarettes are poisonous, Lucky's are toasted.

We do this all the time in PR. We find a way around tough points as they relate to a brand and develop talking points that resonate with audiences. I realize that most of the time we're dealing with non-life threatening products/services/campaigns, but the idea generation concept and messaging exercise is the same regardless of the client.

All in all, I'm find the show to be entertaining, insightful (as to the early days of our business) and captivating. I'm sure it'll get smutty at times, but I'm looking forward to all the PR/Advertising concept talk, crisis stuff (if there is any), positioning discussions, banter between co-workers, etc. It's similar to the movie "The Paper" with Michael Keaton. As a former reporter, I was dying to see that movie, especially if it depicted the journo life accurately (IMO it did).

This closes the Mad Men, Season 1, Episode 1 recap.


Anonymous said...

Good stuff D... Its rare that I get an "insider's view" on shows. Help separate the "real" from the "romance".

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