This week Mad Men was about jealousy, self worth, deception and manipulation. Given all this intrigue the episode is aptly named Dark Shadows, a reference to the gothic soap opera television series
that ran on ABC from 1966 to 1971. Pete is working on leveraging his head of accounts role at SCDP into a personal PR coup with the New York Times. Encouraged by Bert, Roger decides to do things the old-fashioned way and pitch a new account on the sly. A perfect way to reassert his own worth and keep Pete in his place. While Betty struggles with her weight, Don is weighed down with questioning whether he still “has it” as a hot creative guy. Peggy continues her search for recognition and relevance in the creative department. Rather than growing as an agency by pulling together for the common good, SCDP seems to be stagnating as an agency of self indulgent egos eager to assert themselves at any cost. Perhaps another title could have been “A House Divided Cannot Stand.”
From PR Fantasy To Folly
Pete lets the partners know that he is about to land a great cameo appearance for the agency in an upcoming NY Times Sunday Magazine feature on “hip agencies” in the advertising business. Pete’s cocky elevator speech is punctuated with his remark that the author of the article, Arthur, wants to interview only him about the agency. (This is a reference to an actual article written by Victor Navasky that ran on November 20,1966) I loved Roger’s comment leaving the elevator, “Welcome to Sterling Campbell Draper Pryce,” which was not lost on Bert Cooper.
Being featured in the New York Times is a huge PR coup for an agency and it was particularly powerful in the Mad Men days. There was no internet, digital news services, or social media. Personal relationships were critical to obtaining high profile coverage. While the special feature that Pete is hoping for is wonderful, it is the weekday coverage in the Times advertising column that every agency person coveted. From 1966 until his death in 1988 the legendary Phil Dougherty wrote the advertising column for the New York Times. Phil was a highly respected, influential person in the ad business and a great guy. Coverage by Phil about an agency, one of its new campaigns, personnel changes, etc. could energize an agency and influence clients. Later on in my carer I was fortunate to be featured in a few of his columns. Phil could spot BS a mile away and probably would have sized up Pete very quickly.