Lessons for Social Media (And Junior Staffers) from Mad Men

From last night's Mad Men was a quick exchange (well, soliloquy) from Don Draper to Peggy Olson. Quick recap: Peggy was upset she didn't get credit for an idea that lead to this:

It's your job - I give you money, you give me ideas.

But you never say thank you.

That's what the money is for. You are young, you will get your recognition.

And honestly, it is absolutely ridiculous to be two years into your career and counting your ideas.

Everything to you is an opportunity. And you should be thanking me every morning when you wake up, along with Jesus, for giving you another day.
Re-read it. Every day that you have the opportunity to present ideas - be it in public relations or social media - is a day you should be thankful that you have a job, and that you get to present your ideas and be part of a team.

Re-read it. If you're a junior staffer, every day you have the opportunity to work with senior staff and be mentored by them to help your career grow.

Re-read it. Just because you are using social media tools and technology since birth does not mean you "get it" better than senior staffers. In fact, what it likely means is you get it less because you have no real idea or understanding to strategy, tactics and overall objectives and how to integrate social media into an overall public relations or marketing plan.

Re-read it. Yes, PR is a hard industry. Years ago, I read an article that it is one of the most stressful professions out there. But, if it's what you want to do, take your lumps, learn and be happy. Yes, Don should have shared the glory and praised down - but that rarely happens. But he's also someone that has given Peggy huge opportunities, and she's part of a team that is doing her job to make Don and the client look good.

Re-read it. You don't work for yourself, you work for an agency. Your personal branding doesn't mean shit, but your ideas and work do mean the world. The thank you is the paycheck, not your notoriety in social media.



  1. Brilliant, although I should curse you as this does qualify as a spoiler since it's not airing in the UK yet!

  2. I love "Mad Men" for its lessons about agency life (http://bit.ly/ddko0L) and enjoy this blog, but I'm not sure I agree with you. One of the themes of the show - and this episode - is Don's isolation, his difficulty forming relationships, and the price of that flaw. He nearly loses Peggy at the end of season 3, and now he's alienating her all over again. (Of course, things end differently, but I won't be a spoiler!) Also, I think the episode evokes generational differences (Boomers vs Millennials, anyone?) that definitely persist today. Bottom line - what do you lose, as the boss, by giving credit? Nothing, and there is so much to gain.

  3. To Dorothy's point: Often, you don't give credit because the client wants to believe he/she is getting Wisdom from the Mountaintop(tm). It reinforces why it's worth it to pay that fat retainer bill every month.

    That sounds facetious, but I'm completely serious. An agency -- any marketing, advertising or PR agency -- only earns part of its pay based on what it produces; the other part is earned by reinforcing the client's notion that they made a smart choice.

  4. To everyone who agrees with this; look at your job title. I'm guessing 'head of' or 'senior' is in there somewhere.

    Look at that fat paycheck you're getting. Look at the shitty paycheck your junior staffers are getting.

    Who's coming up with the ideas, and who's hindering them?

    If you're at the 'mountaintop' and giving out someone elses ideas as your own, do you deserve to be there? No.

  5. @Nicholas - Thanks.

    @Stuart - I didn't ruin it (it was a small scene and a lot more to the episode).

    @Dorothy - thanks on enjoying the blog. There are generational differences, but I'm not saying to not give credit but that junior staffers need to recognize they have to pay their dues. I loved the speech because I see too many young, barely out of college, PR people lecturing and saying they know better. They don't.

    @Greg - I had a boss that DID give credit, though, and the client loved knowing we all worked together. But both were anomalies. And you're right about the big guys being in there, and paying $500/hour for their counsel.

    @Anonymous Guessing from your inability to differentiate between a semicolon and a colon that you are one of these junior people. Suck it up, and if you don't like it, get out of PR.

  6. When I watched the show, Don's comments did seem a bit harsh... for about 3 seconds. Peggy has 2 years of experience. That's it. She has a LOT to learn. As you said, it would have been nice for him to praise down. Regardless, Don was completely right. (Albiet drunk and perhaps sexist.)

  7. I love this post & know my former jr. team members hate it (and sometimes me). I rarely watch Mad Men (too busy with HBO), but Don Draper is the Jeremy Pepper of advertising.

    Miss you big time - Happy New Year!

  8. Hey if the only thing you can pick on is my grammar then that's pretty cool. Welcome to the internet, where nobody gives a crap.

  9. @Jennifer I didn't think he was drunk yet in that scene. ;)

    @Adam Thanks, but don't feel the Draper vibe.

    @Anonymous Thanks for coming back! And, well on the Internet no one might care but in your chosen profession, if you can't write, use grammar and punctuation, you fail.

  10. Great post... but I have to say one thing just because it's how I roll Jeremy.

    If the misogynistic, alcohol-fueled, racist, drama-laden portrayal of a 1960's advertising agency is your role model? You need to evolve. 21st century.

    Said as someone who has been both junior and senior and doesn't play the "well that's the way I had to do it so that's the way you'll have to do it" games.

    Ick. Don Draper as a role model? Not.

  11. @Lucretia Really? Give me a break. The show is amazing for its drama, and I love Draper's style. That has nothing to do with the norms of society back then, which we would now classify as misogynistic, sexist and racist.

    And it has nothing to do with those games, but everything to do with understanding that you have things to learn still, and it takes time.

  12. I've never worked in an agency. I've worked in the corporate world, in consulting firms and for myself. Except for the latter, though, I always maintained a philosophy that served me well: My job was to make my boss look good. Even when I was a director reporting to a VP, it was an effective approach to work. Believe me, if you do that, you'll get plenty of credit without having to ask for it. Great post, Jeremy. I couldn't agree more.

  13. This surely is very dependent on your agency. If, for example, you work in a company that has a small and new social media department with a team leader who is new to that industry - hired because they have a background in 'old school' PR - and struggles with concepts such as leaving a message on a Facebook wall or adding a video to YouTube, it makes it quite hard to feel okay with being the ideas and actions in an otherwise sterile department.

  14. Well said, and a great lesson many have yet or will never learn.

    However, these days. Personal and Agency branding are key, hand in hand at times.

    Thanks Jeremy!

  15. Hm. I must've written that poorly! Don't get me wrong - I love Mad Men!!! (It's a 3 exclamation point kind of show obviously.) Heck, I even think I'd have tumbled for Don Draper back-in-the-day.

    I just think that it gets a little over-glamourized by everyone in PR, Advertising, and Marketing these days.

    As Shel said above? I'm 100% in agreement with the fact that making your boss look good is always the right idea.

    But I think what we're discussing is more that Peggy wanted a personal acknowledgment, not necessarily a public one. Then again, I might be a little fuzzy on that. I was tired & sick when I watched this week's episode. If she thought he was going to say something like "I couldn't have done it without Peggy!" at either the announcement or the awards, she had unrealistic expectations.

    As I said, great post. We're 100% in agreement on the time & experience thing. Just ick on the concept of Don as the role model.

  16. WrongO JP - but the problem is I agree with you, which makes us both wrong.

    Social media, personal brands, individual contributions are all part of being "social" the irony may be that your idea is mostly part of someone else's blog post but screw that. Why? Cause this is capitalism big fella and I'm gettin' mine.

    Come on, how many people are consultants by night and FTEs by day. So what if Peggy's Klout score got higher because a bunch of other Influencers RTed her great idea.

    So she may appreciate her job, but every contribution is a step closer to her stepping on your face on the way to the top. Thanks for the help.

  17. Congrats Jeremy, great post.

    Bit late to the party, but still: a lot of the discussion, and especially Anonymous's comments highlight the heart of the scene, and the issue: an idea (=tactics) doesn't make you a great consultant (or creative director). And you're NOT a good social media consultant, or dare I say it, strategist, if your core contribution is knowing how to leave a comment or upload a video to YouTube.

    Tactics are easy. Strategy and the ability to sell your idea to the client come from years of experience, and yes, paying your dues. It actually is one of Don's more open, honest and maybe even loving (in a tough-love kinda way) moments. He's telling Peggy: just being here proves you're good. Suck it up and learn.

  18. Your excellent advice is mitigated by one fact within the fiction (SPOILER ALERT): Peggy's ideas about both celebrity endorsements and the concept of an animal abusing luggage to demonstrate its toughness -- ideas both quickly and summarily dismissed by Draper -- were visionary. Joe Namath is remembered almost as much for his infamous TV commercial for pantyhose as he is for his Super Bowl III victory, and the TV spot with a chimpanzee flinging an American Tourister suitcase around his cage played for a decade and a half. Samsonite later acquired American Tourister and adopted that campaign as its own.

    Peggy Olson (who today would be around 70) had good reason to be confident in her ability, and future years would bear her out -- that is, if she remained in the industry rather than electing to embrace matrimonial and maternal opportunities.

  19. J-Pep. I can always count on you to speak what needs to be spoken. And while this isn't the '60s, I've always given credit, there is still an expectation that there are people that you should be grateful to work for and with.

    I've worked with senior people that I've respected and learned a lot from and some that sucked. I can say the same about junior staff. Nobody owes you anything for doing your job well. That's the minimum.

    Earn the respect of your boss by showing respect when it's due and by respectfully disagreeing when it's appropriate to do so.

    We're all young and full of piss and vinegar at one time. But we take our lumps, learn our lessons and then pass them on. Experience and maturity take time and so they should. The successes and failures accumulated are what make us who we are.