Good TV: 60’s themed Mad Men imparts modern day lessons

Posted by on October 20, 2010

After watching AMC-TV’s Emmy-award winning Mad Men season 4 finale, there is plenty to talk about. While the vast differences between the show’s 1960s setting and 2010 are obvious, many of the “lessons” from the show could be scripted in modern day. Here are a few of Mad Men “a-ha’s” we can all benefit from:

Take Risks: Whether it’s placing a full page ad in the New York Times criticizing the cigarette industry as Mad Men’s Don Draper did or launching a mobile application for a client testing the social media waters, calculated risks can be worth the rewards if you’ve done your research, you’re communicating informative content and you’re reaching the right target market. Don’s move landed him an opportunity with a client he’d never even considered a prospect and your risk-taking also could reap rewards.

Listen and Observe:  Clients – and even prospective clients – often drop hints about things they like or dislike about their current agency, the work they’re getting, the projects on their wish list and so on. In Mad Men’s case, Peggy Olson picked up on a possible account lead from listening to a friend mention another agency getting fired and followed through to get her company its first new account in 10 weeks.

Celebrate Accomplishments:  Mad Men’s Joan Harris received a promotion (but no raise) during the season finale. After being dryly informed of the promotion by one of the partners (the other three didn’t bother to come in and congratulate her), Joan responded, “Well, it’s almost an honor,” showing her disdain for the lack of fanfare over the new title. Take time to recognize good work in a public setting and be sure to celebrate small and big wins alike. New business, increased revenue, sales growth and successful programs are all worth recognition.  And in most cases, a quick “hurray” can go a long way to boost employee morale and create an engaging corporate culture.

Don’t Bet on Forever:  Whether it’s your client roster or your 401(k) plan, it pays to diversify.  It’s also important to diversify your own personal skill set and the types of work your company is known for delivering. Mad Men’s advertising agency, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, found out the hard way when its biggest and longest-running client walked out the door without notice, that putting all your eggs in one basket is not a winning strategy.

These few takeaways only scratch the surface of things that could be discussed. If you’re a Mad Men fan, share your own thoughts about how the show imparts modern day wisdom.

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