|The Secrets to Secrets: Mad Men Philosophies
By: Don McLean
Episode four of Mad Men season six, To Have and To Hold, is very secretive. In the first scene, we learn that SCDP is going after Ketchup after all — behind the scenes. Don and Stan spend a lot of time in a back room at the firm with tin foil over the windows. They are keeping this creative pitch a secret from everyone, including the other partners at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (SCDP). The presentation day comes and Draper et al. give it their best. Upon leaving the room, they run into Peggy and Ted Chaough. Don listens in on Peggy's pitch and is visually heartbroken when she uses one of his tried-and-true techniques. Both firms run into each other at a first-floor restaurant. Ken Cosgrove walks in and tells them that Ray from Heinz baked beans found out about the pitch and fired SCDP on the spot. Project K fell flat.
There are some secrets to secrets. Don and the gang attempted to court Ketchup as if it was another mistress. It backfired. In any business there are always secrets, whether they're little secrets to keep from lower levels of staff or bigger secrets such as the one Draper encountered. Here are four secrets when it comes to secrets at SCDP and your office:
How do you deal with secrets at work? Are you always in the know or in the dark? Give me a fifth secret to secrets.
A secret is only a secret if you don't tell anyone. SCDP was doomed from that start when Stan told Peggy about the then-potential Ketchup pitch. Also, since the Ketchup and Baked Beans accounts were part of the same company you had to know that they would find out sooner or later. Not to mention, Timmy was not the only Heinz man in the room. He had others involved in the selection of the competing agencies. We also have to realize that Timmy from Ketchup didn’t like Ray from the Beans business. These types of workplace politics always exist. No matter what you think, secrets will be known eventually.
Nothing ever stays secret for long. Once you tell someone a secret they will most likely tell it to someone else. It is part of human nature to let people in on the juicy gossip. How Ray found out about the pitch we are not sure, but it could have been any number of things, such as: a memo (a forwarded email today), a friend privy to what is happening on both sides, or Timmy may have told him directly to watch his sales crash and burn. No matter how Ray learned of SCDP’s disloyalty, we learn that secrets are not designed to be kept secret long.
You are a key player. You know you are key to the company when you're involved. For Don, Stan is his new go-to guy. Ginsberg is shut out again. When you are part of a secret this big, that is a real testament to your character. When you are a key player, you should be open and honest about things. Stan forgot to mention to Don that he let it slip to Peggy that SCDP is not pitching Ketchup. Don would have been able to foresee some things and make more informed decisions.
Weigh the possible outcomes. If and when the secret does get out, is it worth it? From the start, Don and Pete said Ray would never find out about this. They did not think about what would happen if he did. Could they afford to lose the business? It is a gamble. When you go to the casino it's not smart to take so much money that it would leave you living out of your car for the next few years. Only play what you can afford to lose. Since it is still a secret, the rest of the partners will not be happy once they learn about this loss. Would the other partners have made the same decision? If you do not want to get caught, do not proceed. You must be able to accept the consequences no matter what the outcome is. Peggy and Stan’s friendship is now severely damaged and the company has lost a multi-million-dollar national account.
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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