Ladies and gentleman, on this week's episode of Mad Men, we witnessed the death of an advertising era—literally. When Ida Blankenship, Don Draper's crass and incompetent secretary, died in her office chair as she lived, "answering people's phones" as Bert Cooper said, it signaled a new chapter for the agency.
Now, you may think I'm overreacting, seeing as how she was a brand new character this season. But given her past experience at the agency, as Bert Cooper's secretary (and maybe more?) and another one of Roger Sterling's conquests, you have to look at her being ushered out of the office surreptitiously while the clueless clients sat oblivious in the conference room, you had to wonder what she was taking with her.
We've been building to a whole new Don Draper, and a new agency, since the season premiere. If you compare Don's reaction to his difficult Jantzen client with the almost nonchalant reaction that he had when the Fillmore Auto Parts client pretty much decided its own tagline. Perhaps he was distracted by Ms. Blankenship's demise, but I think it's something a bit more.
This episode also revisited an issue it has already explored this season: what to do when you don't agree with your client's position on an issue, politics, etc. Peggy is caught off guard when her writer friend gives her grief over working on Fillmore Auto Parts because the company is being boycotted for not hiring blacks. And n Peggy questions why the agency is working on the client at all, Don tells her, "Our job is to make men like Fillmore Auto, not Fillmore Auto like Negroes." But is it really that simple? How do you separate right from wrong when it's your job to sell an idea, image, and product that you're not 100% behind?
I recently had a conversation with the head of a major global agency and asked him what it would take to not take on a client, if there were any he would refuse based on personal beliefs. His response was that the agency would never take on a tobacco client. What do you think? Is it hard to draw the line, especially in this economy, between what's good for the bottom line and what will help you sleep better at night? Discuss.