There have been many articles written about Mad Men, especially about the final episode. As fans of the show since it began, our agency posted quite a few blog posts about it and there were many Monday conversations discussing and dissecting each Sunday show over the years.
I have my own ideas about that smile on Don Draper’s face in the last scene. And I can tell you how to have one of your own the next time you need a big idea.
If he was nothing else, Don was an idea man. I don’t admire everything about his character but I do tip my hat to his creativity. And although I’m no Madison Avenue advertising genius, I have made my living on ideas. Great ideas are needed in B2B marketing as much or more than B2C in my humble opinion.
Some of my favorite Don Draper quotes include:
“Just think about it. Deeply. And then forget it. An idea will jump up in your face.”
“There’s a rare occasion where a public can be engaged beyond flash… about a deeper bond with a product. Nostalgia. It’s delicate, but potent.”
“And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is okay. You are okay.
With everything he’d been through, Don needed to get past a lot of negative thoughts and situations he’d created for himself over the course of the years 1959 to 1970 that were spanned in the show’s 5 seasons. To appreciate his creative process and that last moment of inspired clarity you really need to binge watch the series if you’ve never seen it.
So here’s my list of the 10 things you can do to when you need a big idea:
Don’t be lazy.
You’re in a competitive sport; be professional about it. Wherever your creative efforts are the least bit amateurish, hire outside professionals.
Never quit learning.
This is the best time ever to be in marketing, but it’s no time to stand still.
Think of great questions.
Great questions lead to great answers and big ideas.
What’s your first idea?
Sometimes your first idea is your best. Now see if you can better it.
What’s your worst idea?
When you’re stuck looking for the best idea, switch gears and think of what would be the worst idea. Sometimes it lightens the mood, changes your perspective and leads to a great idea.
What’s your story?
Marketers are in the storytelling business. Much has been written on this, so read up.
What’s the hook?
Why should anyone listen to your story? Draw them in with a compelling question or provoking statement or image.
Don’t limit your time on creative development to work hours.
Sleep on it and wake with it. If you have an idea, write it down or it will evaporate like a good dream (don’t be like Paul Kinsey!). Always keep a pen and pad near the bed.
Keep working on it.
Marketing is a sport, but it isn’t all fun and games. People’s jobs depend on you.
Now cut it by half.
Once you have your marketing messages and creative content worked out, simplify it. What can you take out? If it’s not critical, it’s clutter.
This is my list of suggestions. It’s not exactly Don Draper’s approach but I know it’s worked for me for the past 30+ years. What helps you with your creative process?
Pay special attention to #8 in my list. Because there’s not much worse than having a great idea and then losing it.
Actor Michael Gladis was quoted on this in a Vulture.com article about his character, Paul Kinsey.
V: The consensus among Mad Men fans is that your characters left the show too soon. Is it safe to assume that’s how you feel too?
MG: For Paul, it made sense, because he was really there to serve Peggy’s arc. He was the one who gave her the tour of Sterling Cooper back in season one and encouraged her to become a copywriter. And toward the end, she surpassed him in talent. Particularly in the third season, right before [the firm split], when Paul had that great idea and forgot it and Peggy and Don started spitballing in the office and saved his ass.