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Loyalty, Friends, and Work: Mad Men Philosophies
By: Don McLean
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Loyalty and work in advertising. This is not the standard norm that it once was. Loyalty in this business — in any business, for that matter — is more of an old value that sits on the shelf, used occasionally but most often forgotten. Mad Men’s latest installment in their Emmy-winning series titled “The Collaborators” brings us three major instances of challenged loyalty in business. Let's not even get started on their personal lives. 
  1. Loyalty and longtime business: Don Draper and Ken Cosgrove are visited by Heinz Baked Beans client Raymond Geiger for an introduction meeting. He introduces them to Heinz Ketchup’s “Polished Pollack.” The meeting ends and after the head of the “Coca Cola of Condiments” walks out of the room, Ray quickly changes his tune, saying not to go after the Ketchup division. Ray assures Don and Ken that he is happy with SCDP and walks out. Ken Wants to go after Ketchup anyways but Don reels him back in, saying, “Sometimes you gotta dance with the one that brung you.” Ken is unhappy with this response. Did Don do the right thing in keeping loyalty towards Ray and the Baked Beans division? This brings us back to earlier in the Mad Men seasons, when Don wanted to stay with Mohawk Airlines and Duck wanted to go after American Airlines. Ultimately they ended up without either airline. This makes me think that Don may have had this in his mind when he was explaining his rationale to Ken. We will have to wait for further episodes to see how this unfolds; however, what would you do in this situation? It would be easy to risk everything and go for broke, but would you be willing to lose the Baked Beans business? Don’s loyalty in business, though ironic, shows great concern for his clients and their best interests. When clients know you are in their corner, they fight for you in ways that you could never think of. Ray is testing Don’s loyalty and it looks like he is going to pass.       
  2. Loyalty for the good of the client: Don’s loyalty towards this work and what is right for the client is tested again in this episode but in a different way. One-third of his Jaguar client, Herb Rennet, is trying to poison the deal once again and thinks only about himself. Herb calls a meeting with Pete and Don to discuss changing all of the media buys and creative to favor his part of the business. Then he asks Don to pitch it to the rest of the team as their idea. Don knows this is not right and the work will suffer. He also knows that it will reflect poorly on the firm if they run with this plan. When the rest of the Jaguar team comes in for the final discussion before launch Don pulls a pitch move like we have never seen before, attempting to sell Herb’s idea but knowingly sounding very off base. The Jaguar team knows that this does not sound right for their luxury brand so they stay with the original decision as Don intended. This loyalty that Don showed exhibited what needed to be done for the good of the client. Sometimes what is asked of you and what is right do not always coincide.  
  3. Loyalty towards work friends: Peggy Olson is on another one of her after-hours calls with Stan Rizzo, physically laughing, when her new boss walks in. Boss Ted Chaough kindly asks what was making her laugh. Stan was talking to her about the Heinz incident and SCDP not going after the Ketchup brand. The next day when she walks into the office, Ted has a folder for Peggy to prepare to go after Ketchup. Peggy says she cannot do that because she learned about it in confidence from a friend. Ted tells her “Maybe you need a friend more than you need a job,” ending the conversation with, “This is how wars are won.” Peggy is faced with a tough situation. Does she go after the potentially huge opportunity for the firm or stay loyal to her friend? If Peggy wants to stay at her current firm she will have to go after the account. Can she do that and still be loyal? Peggy is used to being loyal to Don Draper and SCDP, and that is one of the underlying issues here. Since SCDP is not going after the account, it would make the most sense to let Stan know that her firm is and leave it at that. That way she is letting her friend know their now-inside information while being loyal to her new boss. It may not be the war like Ted explained, since Don walked out with the white flag, but it will test Peggy’s loyalty.  
These situations may play out very differently if Mad Men were set in today’s world. This idea of loyalty seems lost. What would you do if you were faced with these tough decisions? Would you rest on the laurels that your parents and grandparents taught you or would you take a chance? 


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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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