The new season of Mad Men finds Don Draper in an unfamiliar place: a startup.
Over three seasons, the hit AMC series has shown Draper ascending the ranks at Sterling Cooper, an established agency with two generations of business under its belt, that was subsequently acquired by a large British firm.
But last season ended with Draper and Co. staging a risky exit from their English overlords, Puttnam, Powell, and Lowe. The creative department had been chafing under Putnam’s penny-pinching management style and a clash of corporate cultures between the British and American firms.
So the team left to create their own agency: Sterling, Cooper, Draper and Pryce (or SCDP.)
Draper is a chameleon, a man who’s success rests largely on his ability to reinvent himself, but he seems to be having a little trouble figuring out his new role as the face of SCDP.
Last night’s episode found Draper and his team struggling to craft their new image, outmaneuver larger firms, and execute on all the other details that a small business needs to survive.
This season opens with a reporter's question: who is Don Draper? But our hero can't seem to stomach selling himself the same way he masterfully pitches products.
He blows the interview with Ad Age and loses a valuable client as a result.
Peggy Olson, realising she can't compete with larger agencies size or budgets, decides to get creative.
She dreams up a PR stunt that costs a fraction of a traditional campaign. The staged action gets traction in the press and the client expands their account.
Don, accustomed to success, is resentful of the small-fry clients his new firm needs to court.
He blows a simple presentation with swimwear designer Jantzen, who is looking for a family friendly approach.
When Bert Cooper criticises Don for the lousy interview in Ad Age, Don shoots back that public relations aren't his job. 'Your job is turning creative success into business,' Cooper tells him.
His message is a powerful one for startups: team members need to be willing to go outside their traditional job descriptions to help a young company succeed.
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