You Are the Product


I’m sorry that I don’t have a more substantial post today. I’ve been watching Mad Men obsessively and I forgot to come up with something to write about.  Instead, I’ll just point you all to an awesome link:

The Footnotes of Mad Men

It’s a catalogue of, and commentary upon, the artistic movements and cultural quirks referenced in the best show on television. As someone who didn’t live through the era, I find it fascinating.

A quick thought:

There’s an episode in Season 1 where Don Draper tells Pete Campbell, “Sterling Cooper has more failed artists and intellectuals than the Third Reich.” But I think that Don is perhaps the one character at the agency who is not a failed artist. He’s a successful one.

Artists are concerned with self-expression – a personal point of view. Businessmen are concerned with selling –  understanding the customer’s point of view. These two impulses are often seen as antithetical to one another.  An artist who is too concerned with what the audience wants is labeled a sellout, while a businessman consumed by his own vision of what the customer should want, rather than what there is actually a market for, might soon find himself out of business. But Don Draper repeatedly accomplishes what many artists aspire to – he takes his own vision, his own feeling, and sells it to his clients.

He gives Peggy a truly valuable insight into his work when he tells her, “You are the product. You feeling something. That’s what sells. Not them. Not sex. They can’t do what we do and they hate us for it.” While most of the other copywriters at Sterling-Cooper cast about, trying to stumble upon what the client wants, Don actually shows them something they didn’t even know they wanted. He makes them see the way he does.

If that’s not art, I don’t know what is.

Published in: on August 20, 2009 at 4:02 am  Leave a Comment  

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