Would Don Draper have blogged rather than pay for a NYT ad?
Sunday night's second to last "Mad Men" episode of the season (which seems awfully short to me) made those of us who have run agencies squirm as it details the aftermath of the loss of a client that was more than 50% of the agency's business. That is always a precarious position for any type of service organization. It is particularly thorny for creative agencies that are only as good as their most recent campaigns, and whose best work may be futile if management change at their client unfairly throws the account into review.
Agency creative director and Mad Men anti-hero Don Draper is casting about for what to do next, particularly as clients shy away from an agency they think is in jeopardy and competitors spread the word of their impending demise. His protege, copywriter Peggy Olson reminds Draper, "You always say 'if you don't like what they are saying about you, change the conversation.'"
In the mid-sixties, Don Draper's big move to change the conversation is to publish a full-page ad in the New York Times that proclaims that their agency will no longer work with big tobacco companies. As his young, but not so naive, assistant Megan rightly points out, his letter spins the loss of Lucky Strike as "we dumped them; they didn't dump us." He also did not waste any time consulting his partners or colleagues or accepting any edits to the letter. He wrote, polished and had it published himself, with no group review or input.
Would Draper have done the same thing in this same circumstance in 2010?
I don't think so.
As comforting an image as it was to me to see all of those related people (including his ex-wife's politician husband) reading the letter in their New York Times edition at the breakfast table the next morning, I don't think it would have the same impact and reach today.
No, I think Draper would have gone into Typepad, as I did this morning, and penned a blog post for the Sterling Cooper Draper Price (SCDP) corporate blog. He still may not have had anyone provide any edits, but he likely would have asked Peggy or whoever was in charge of the PR division of the agency (a critical addition) to "Tweet" a link to his site, put it on the SCDP Facebook Fan Page, and push it out as an FYI to the most critical media, analyst and blogger contacts who cover SCDP and the advertising industry in general.
With luck, Draper would have been contacted by the New York Times and other influencers by virtue of the aggressive sentiments in the blog post and been interviewed for an article rather than having to buy what he admitted on the program was an ad for the agency in the New York Times. And because the blog was self-published and any coverage it generated would be considered objective, it would have gone a lot farther in "changing the conversation" than the "shenanigans" Peggy chided Draper for using with his ad. And Lee Garner, Jr. likely would have been contacted for commentary in coverage of the bold move, which would have made Draper's offense as a defense action even sweeter.
Draper's proactivity was an interesting business move for 1960s Madison Avenue culture and I'm hoping it pans out for him and his agency. But can you imagine how someone with his creativity and guts would fare if he had the arsenal of social media tools at his disposal to change the conversation in an instant?