The Most Important Lesson from Mad Men

I was a late comer to Mad Men, having actively resisted watching for years, despite what my colleagues and Twitter feed were telling me. Honestly, the opening scene and underlying anti-Semitic, misogynistic undertones were too much. But when I was holding my son to help him sleep at some ungodly hour and totally dependent on Rogers On Demand for entertainment, I got hooked. There’s something quite wonderful about seeing a company that you are so proud to work at, being featured so prominently in the show knowing that it is totally changing the way all agencies will work, despite what our (anti?) heroes think.

More importantly, there is a powerful lesson we can all learn from Mad Men – the importance of telling a story. In one of the more memorable scenes from the first season, in a new business meeting Don Draper pitches Kodak an idea. In the modern agency world, there would be 10 minutes of credentials, 10 minutes of case studies, 8 minutes of proprietary process, 10 minutes of strategic set-up, some preamble from the creative team about “truths” or “insights” and, finally, the work. But in this case, Don simply tells a story that is intertwined with the images he’s showing and the technology he’s using. Everything works together. Nothing is competing for our attention. We get so totally wrapped up in the moment that I can imagine the clients buying the idea there and then.

That’s the power of a story.

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