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Working Through a Client Crisis: Mad Men Philosophies
By: Don McLean
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Sunday night’s premiere episode of Mad Men showed Peggy in a new light. In her new role she is reminiscent of a young Don Draper in Season 1. This episode, though very entertaining, teaches its professional viewers a thing or two about working through a client crisis. The episode was focused on a campaign for Koss headphones called “Lend Me Your Ears” that was pulled after an unfortunate incident in the Vietnam War. When Peggy was unable to reach the firm’s partner to figure out how to handle the situation, she was left to her own devices.
 
Working through a client crisis is no picnic, especially when it’s a crisis as socially unacceptable as what she would have had to deal with. Peggy losing out on Christmas vacation is nothing out of the ordinary for many ad agencies today. Here are five things to learn from Peggy Olson on how to best working through a client crisis: 
  1. Accept the crisis. Do not get in the way of yourself. By acting upset you are simply wasting time and energy. Move on. When Peggy was presented with this situation she was frustrated but kept it together. She was diligent in sticking to her process of what works, going back to a method that Draper taught her about writing a letter to someone about how much she loved the product.
  2. Open your eyes. Sometimes the best answer is right in front of you. When her live-in boyfriend Abe brought dinner, she did not kick him out. She wanted him to stay and asked him to listen to the music and describe what he heard through the Koss headphones. When she saw Abe bobbing his head to the music she remembered some video footage that came out of her initial session for the “Lend Me Your Ears” campaign. She used what she observed towards the ad. When you open your eyes, many times you will find the answers in the most unexpected circumstances.
  3. Do not try to rebuild Rome. Rome was not built in a day and it could not be rebuilt in a day, either. Developing an advertisement takes thought and time. It is important to use the resources that are around you. As we see here, the ad did not need to be adjusted that much. In the end, it was a much stronger ad. It almost makes you wonder how close you actually are to a much stronger ad when you think you have a good one.  
  4. Confidence. Have confidence in yourself and your team to take care of the situation. The client told Peggy what to do but she only considered it as an option and not a great ad. Peggy showed the confidence that she had in herself and the team, reassuring the client that they would have a new ad in time for the Super Bowl. Showing confidence allows others to trust in what you believe is right. It makes a big difference in almost any situation, whether it is business or life.
  5. Go the extra mile. Let’s face it. Peggy got lucky with the extra footage to prevent a reshoot. Next time you have an ad, go the extra mile and keep other material on hand from the start. Shoot a little extra or write a little more just in case. Once the ad is complete, it may even be worth revisiting a couple days later to bring a fresh set of eyes to it. The key here is to be ready for anything at a moment’s notice. After all, you would rather put a little more into an idea up front and prevent a future crisis, wouldn’t you?  
Have you been in a similar situation as Peggy Olson from Mad Men? How have you dealt with the situation? What could you have done better?


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About the Author
Don McLean, MBA is an account supervisor at Airfoil Group, an independent marketing and public relations firm serving tech companies and innovation-centric brands with offices in Detroit, New York and Silicon Valley. Follow Don on twitter at@mclean_don.  
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