This agency blog was started with a note of appreciation to Matthew Weiner for doing such an amazing job of capturing the highs the ad business can deliver when things are going well — there is nothing like the buzz you get from a great campaign coming together, a perfect blend of strategic and creative. As season five of Mad Men winds down to a final episode next week, Weiner and company have achieved so much more. I can’t say the series is hitting its stride, because from the very first episode, it took off like a rabbit and lapped other dramatic shows long ago. It’s just that in the last two weeks, Mad Men has plumbed the moral (or amoral) depths of business in general, and advertising specifically. It has taken its two central female characters and shown how women are too often treated and what they have to do to succeed. It has delivered jolts worthy of Shakespearean tragedy.
For every guy who has ever wanted to be Don Draper, you might soon need a liver transplant. Alcohol can only begin to numb the pain when you get what you want — a car account (Jaguar) — only to know that it likely wasn’t the creative that won the day. Also that you have told one of the guys with his name on the door (Lane Pryce) to tender his resignation on Monday morning following a forged check and embezzlement, only to have him make another type of exit. And you have watched as Peggy, the woman you’ve mentored (but mistreated) through five seasons has finally flown to another agency, while Joan, the office manager who has helped keep the agency together, has unexpectedly become a partner, by accepting an offer that would help land the agency its biggest account while sending its moral compass spinning in all directions.
I have no idea what next week’s season five final episode holds, but I expect it to resonate just like every other before it. Weiner has created an incredibly rich tapestry about advertising’s golden age, the tumultuous sixties, and the changing dynamics between men and women, as well as family and work. Bravo!