How the last episode of Mad Men captured creativity perfectly
22nd May 2015
So that's it. No more Mad Men. After 7 (slash 8) seasons we've finally come to the end of Don, Peggy, Joan, Pete and Roger's journey.
I was always intrigued how it would finish. Especially as creator Matthew Weiner had said years ago "I've got an ending. I've had it for years. I just hope someone doesn't do it first." Some internet speculation had hinted that Don would turn out to be DB Cooper, jumping from a plane with bags of money, only to never be seen again.
But in the end we ended up right where we started. Don solving a creative problem for a brand by going off the script. In a slightly bizarre last episode Don swanned off to California, joined a hippy retreat and literally hugged out his failings as a human being. As he sat with his retreat, meditating, the episode cut to the last advert in the series. Coca-Cola’s famous "I'd like to teach the world to sing" Hilltop ad. An advert so iconic it practically defines the early 70s.
In the last episodes Don and Coke working together had been hinted at. One character foreshadowed "Can you fix my coke machine? I heard you're a handy guy." Another had more explicitly asked him back to the office to work on the account.
The Don Draper Lessons (less spoilerific)
What I've always loved about Mad Men is that in its best moments it truly captures the creative journey. From scribbling down ideas on napkins, to "ah ha" moments that hit you in the car or off the beaten track. The show reminds you any situation can be turned into a winning campaign for your client.
In its first episode Don is quizzing a waiter on the brand of cigarette he smokes. He always pays as much qualitative attention to a client problem - asking real world people, rather than relying on research and opinion polls. A lesson that seems particularly apt post our own General Election result.
We've made no secret of our love of a Mad Men at Dynamo. Heck, we even have an @dondraperclause written into staff contracts. This was us having a bit of fun, an indulgence, given Don's name. Fun is an important part of doing something interesting with your staff and clients.
The surprising thing with Mad Men is how little has changed, in marketing agencies, since the 60s. We still have the member of staff plucked into a creative role, the ambitious new business person and, sadly, a lot to do on improving diversity issues.
But Mad Men also reminds us that we can get so pre-occupied in our careers, too. With sticking to the script, with name-dropping the latest fashionable 'authentic' buzzword, with answering emails, with office politics, instead of dreaming up new ideas.
In the end the biggest lesson of Mad Men is that if you want to really take a brand to next level you need to get up. Get up right now and walk out of your office. Like Howard Beale in Network you need to shout "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore".
Go explore, experience something new. Because it's those experiences you can bring to your clients that take them into new areas. Don Draper, despite his failings, offered a lesson for us all.
Written by Peter Bowles is co-founder and co-CEO at Dynamo PR