Mad Men season seven debuted on AMC last night. While it is a fictional show, it’s also instructive about the actual ad business in ways that Bewitched and other pop culture looks at the industry are not.
… SPOILER ALERT …
Season seven opens and we find that Don Draper is banished from the agency for a time. There is an imposter in his place. Entertainment Weekly describes the poseur like so:
Lou Avery is calling the shots, and he’s everything that Don was not. He dresses like Mr. Rogers, chuckles at his own corny jokes, and brags about his “peachy” weekend chopping firewood. Most importantly, he is immune to Peggy’s charms. We know this because he tells pesky Peggy, who is sure she knows better than anyone, “I guess I’m immune to your charms.”
Ah, Peggy. Where fore are thou? The show’s female hero—the bright counter to Don’s dark anti-hero—is distraught. She’s been spurned by a married man (who happens to be a partner in the agency where she works), her landlord thing isn’t working out and now she has to smile while pitching the biggest oaf in fictional advertising history. Bleh.
The sad reality portrayed by this fiction is people who don’t belong in the role of creative director sometimes end up there despite themselves and against all logic. When this occurs, things can unravel pretty rapidly.
Let’s watch the digression of a tagline for Bullova watches, as it took place last night’s episode, “Time Zones.”
Don (speaking through Freddy): “Accutron. It’s not a timepiece, it’s a conversation piece.”
Peggy: “Accutron, it’s time for a conversation.”
Lou Avery, the imposter: “Accutron is accurate.”
“Accutron is accurate.” Now, that’s going to sell Swiss watches! Yet, when Peggy fights for the work, she’s rudely shot down by the doofus CD who wonders aloud at his own ineptitude, “Why would you put something in front me that you don’t want me to pick?”
The best line does not always win. The best idea does not always win. However, in this made-for-TV dramatic series, I do believe Peggy and Don’s good ideas will surface once more as winners. They may need to break off from the corporate hegemony of Sterling Cooper to re-achieve greatness, but ideas and people with ideas will be free. In 1969 and always.