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Don Draper’s Award Winning Lost Weekend

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After a rocky start, the first few months of 1965 progressed pretty well on the business front for the folks at SCDP. Pete Campbell scored a six million dollar face saving account in Vicks, the agency was able to hold on to Ponds and Don used his guile and skill to turn Roger’s embarrassing display of bad taste into a shot at the Honda car account. This growth spurt looks like it will continue with the possibility that Ken Cosgrove could be joining the agency and bringing accounts like Birds-Eye and Mountain Dew along with him.

And, while all of this was going on some interesting things were happening in the creative department. Don’s drinking is causing him to behave more erratically and he is pushing his creative teams very hard to develop advertising that would keep all these new clients happy. This was causing friction between Don and Peggy and also stirring up Peggy’s personal creative identity issues.

I Wanna Be In The Ad Game

Landing a job in the creative department without any experience was almost impossible. Aspiring creatives usually had to pay their dues in the mail room and work their way into the job. Peggy did it through the secretarial pool. Or, sometimes, a not so subtle request from a client or agency principal could open closed doors. Most of the time these “must hires” happened in the account group or the media departments since they were easier to manage. The creative department was a bit more off limits to these incursions and creative directors strongly resisted hiring anyone that they did not believe in.

Even with those door-opening recommendations, having a portfolio of spec work that showcased creative thinking was, and still is, essential to being hired, a cost of entry. Don and Peggy’s portfolio review with Danny, Jane Sterling’s cousin, captured one of those courtesy meetings that obviously was going nowhere. They thought his portfolio was laughable. Roger confessed that he needed Don to hire Danny to keep the peace with Jane but Don wanted no part of it. In a classic Mad Men ironic twist, this unimpressive portfolio delivered by “Roger’s idiot” would save Don’s ass in a new business meeting. It would also land Danny a job he initially had a no hope of getting, an unlikely win-win for Roger and Dan.

Try This Slogan On For Size

Back in the Mad Men days we occasionally had client meetings in which some of the participants had been over-served at lunch and may not have been at their best. Sometimes it was the client, but most of the time it was someone from the agency.

Watching Don and Roger roll into the Life cereal creative meeting with their Clio in hand and sobriety in question brought back some memories. At both Benton and Bowles and Doyle Dane Bernbach there were a few people notorious for this kind of colorful behavior. We never scheduled meaningful meetings with them after lunch because they were likely to behave like Don and Roger. Don’s tipsy bravado, tossing out slogans and abandoning his creative principles was played out wonderfully. It was especailly interesting for me since it involved Life cereal, an account I once pitched and did not get. Life was popularized during the 1970s by one of ad land’s most celebrated and admired advertising campaigns. It featured Mikey, a picky eating four-year-old who “hates everything.” The commercials featured the now famous catchphrase “He likes it! Hey Mikey!” and ran from 1974 to 1986. Definitely a much better idea than “The Cure For the Common Breakfast.”

And The Clio Goes To…

Winning creative awards could catapult an agency to success, launch careers and build creative superstars. First given in 1959, the Clios are one of the oldest in the ad business and were expanded to include international advertising in 1965. One of the industry’s most famous Clio awards was for Chiat/Day’s Apple 1984 commercial which helped launch the Macintosh. Today there are other major advertising awards such as Cannes Lions, Emmy awards and others that are in the display cases alongside the Clios.

Entering work into these award shows is expensive. They are viewed as important for business and they also play a significant role in the nurturing of creative talent. Award recognition by industry peers is a great ego boost to the individuals involved in the ad campaigns as well as a general agency morale builder. The award shows themselves are fun and the after parties even better. Don’s leaving the Clio at the Pen and Pencil that evening after a night of celebration was not atypical. (Many years later my son Gregg Wasiak and his creative partner Ray Mendez, took home a Cannes Gold Lion for one of their campaigns. Their Lion received a similar treatment to Don’s Clio.) Tickets to the awards events were limited and attendance is a coveted reward. Peggy was not too happy that she was not on the guest list but Joan was.

Sharing The Spotlight

The Clio award is given to the agency but the spotlight is on the creative director and/or the senior creative team that developed the campaign. Often, however, there are a few people involved in the genesis of an idea and sometimes the way agency management handles recognition for the award could get tricky. Don was clearly basking in the glory of the GloCoat Clio but Peggy was feeling slighted since she felt that she also played a role in its development. Even Roger was looking for some of the spotlight when he was holding the Clio “hostage” after retrieving it for Don. He promised to return it if Don would just say one thing: “You couldn’t have done it without me.” Don thanked Roger and reclaimed his Clio.

There are a couple of other developments that should add some interesting drama in the upcoming episodes. How Pete Campbell and Ken Cosgrove interact under the new partnership structure of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce will fun to watch. My bets are on Ken. And now that Don has made his intentions known to Faye, let’s see how his interest in focus group research progresses. More heat to come.

One more thing. What else will Don forget?

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About Hank Wasiak

Hank Wasiak is a communications industry leader and partner at the creative hot shop, The Concept Farm. Hank began his advertising career in 1965 as a real Mad Man at Benton & Bowles. He is a best selling author, teacher, motivational speaker and three time Emmy award winning television host. Hank and Dr. Kathy Cramer created a best selling business - self help book series based on Asset-Based Thinking published by Running Press. Hank also is an Adjunct Professor at USC's Marshall School Of Business.