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Mad Men: “Man With A Plan”

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“Man With A Plan” picks up on the fast paced action of “For Immediate Release” by bringing the benefits and drawbacks of an agency merger into sharp focus. As I discussed in last week’s article, once the euphoria of winning Chevy and doubling the size of the agency fades, the harsh business realities of dealing with clients, managing egos, defining roles and trimming staff hit hard and fast.

This episode is rich with sharp character conflicts, turf battles, power struggles, and insecurities precipitated by the merger. Pete also has another very bad week both in and out of the office. His gin-drinking, dementia-afflicted mother is dumped in his lap just as Pete is fighting to carve out his place at the new Sterling, Copper, Draper, Pryce, Cutler, Gleason & Chaough. (The have to get the name thing sorted out soon.)

The morbid undertones of Mad Men continue to come through with Joan, Don and Frank Gleason coming to grips with their mortality. Don expresses his sadistic need for control by treating Sylvia like a sex slave and getting Ted smashed in the office so he can undermine his effectiveness and stature. Peggy quickly sees her worst fears about the merger happening as Don, the boss she ran away from, tries to undermine Ted, the new boss she ran to. The episode ends with a sobering reminder of the turbulent times with the tragic shooting of Robert Kennedy being broadcast on the news.

Uncertain Times Try Men’s Souls And Insecurities

Combining agencies after a merger creates a stressful, difficult,
uncertain working environment and the opening minutes of “Man With A Plan” vividly set the uncomfortable scenarios that result. CGC employees are moving into the larger SCDP offices requiring a great deal of give and take on both sides. As Peggy and Ted arrive at SCDP Joan is on the stairs directing a lineup of CGC employees waiting to get their assigned offices and reporting responsibilities. Ted is told his office isn’t ready and he handles it graciously. The creatives are told they will all be temporarily sharing an office and, as expected, grunt and grown about it. Peggy, the agency’s new copy chief, is assigned Harry’s old office. As Joan escorts Peggy to her office they share a nice “good to be back together again” moment. Hopefully we will see the relationship between these two strong Mad Men women grow into a positive force at the new agency. Once again Harry finds himself on the short end of the office pecking order. He laments his scaled down office with Pete and we’ll see if this new blow to his ego is enough to push Harry out the door.

The partners gather in the now over-crowded conference room for
their first status meeting and the clash of cultures and personalities is evident form the start. As usual, Don is fashionably late but this time the meeting starts without him. An insecure Pete realizes there isn’t an open seat at the table and sees it as a sign that he’s being squeezed out. He demands that Moira, Ted’s assistant give up her seat but instead Ted gives up his. Pete ungraciously sits down only to bicker with Jim Cutler about the lack of disclosure during the merger. Jim scolds Pete about the double loss of Vicks, an SCDP client and Clearasil, a CGC client. Pete shoots back with “Why didn’t you tell us that Frank Gleason was dying”. With those pleasantries out of the way, the partners get down to business with a discussion of clients and potential new business.

The first sticky point is a perceived conflict by SCDP’s Mohawk Airlines client and CGC’s New York State Thruway client. The partners agree that the “road travel vs. air travel” conflict is it a bit of a stretch but that it should be quickly addressed, particularly since the Thruway media money has already been allocated. Ted plans to fly Don and Pete up to meet with the CEO of Mohawk Airlines but Pete calls for the meeting to be cancelled so he can attend to his mother. Don and Ted fly up without Pete in the middle of a storm and the rough flight rattles Don. Pete is informed that the Mohawk conflict is resolved without him, further fueling his insecurities.

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.