Don Draper applies for a job in 2013
People who don’t work in advertising watch “Mad Men” and think that’s what it’s like. But could Don even get a job today?
“Edward, there’s a Don Draper here to see you.”
“OK, I’ll be right out.”
Don stood in the lobby, a black portfolio case in his right hand. He stared out the window at a Heineken sign painted on the side of an exposed brick building across the lot.
“Now that’s a poster,” he said, turning to face me. “Don Draper.”
It certainly was a poster. As boring and traditional as a poster could be. Green background. Big picture of the bottle. A logo.
“Sure is,” I nodded.
We walked past the receptionist, down an extra wide flight of stairs to the creative department below. I wasn’t really looking forward to this conversation.
“Are we meeting in your office?” asked the legendary CD.
“Actually I don’t have an office. None of us have offices anymore, Don. As you can see, we just have open space. Long tables. Laptops we can carry with us up to the cafe if we want a change of pace. Even the conference rooms have glass doors so everyone feels more connected.”
He seemed confused.
“I mean where would you, what happens when….”
There was a pause.
“When you want to bang your secretary?” I finished the sentence for him. “ Not a problem, Don. We don’t have secretaries anymore either. We do our own typing, correspondence, appointments.”
We passed some large walls with work in progress pinned to them. Video games, apps, charts that showed user experience journeys and a few key frames for a new mobile experience.
“We can just sit here. Have a seat.” I gestured to a couple of stools at an elevated bench in the middle of the creative department. I figured Don might feel more comfortable sitting at a bar height table.
“At least you have a bar. That’s great.”
“Actually it’s not a bar. Just a place to stand and work. People like to work standing up these days. Better for you.”
Don looked at me with some skepticism.
Clearly the concept of doing anything in an ad agency from a vertical position was a foreign concept to my guest.
“So you want to see my book, or should we just talk about the job?”
“Let’s look at the book.”
He unzipped a Utrecht black leather portfolio case to reveal a dozen or more pristine plastic leaves, each displaying a tear sheet. All the campaigns that made Don famous were there: Kodak, Playtex, Lucky Strike. He pushed the open case toward me and I feigned interest as I flipped through the pages.
“Some memorable work, for sure.”
“So what do you think?” Don pulled out a pack of Luckys and pressed his pant pockets in search of either matches or a lighter.
“You can’t smoke here, Don. Sorry.”
“I thought you said this was an advertising agency?”
“We still call it that, yes. But a lot has changed. In fact we don’t really make many ads. At least not the kind you’re used to making.”
“Well what do you make?”
“I guess we make a newer form of advertising. Digital experiences, social media applications, engagement platforms, shareable content, mobile utility. A lot of technology.”
“I see. Well, technology is a glittering lure, but there’s the rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash, when they have a sentimental bond with the product….”
Don launched into his well rehearsed Carousel speech.
“I love that monolog,” I interrupted. “ It’s brilliant. It’s probably got a million views on YouTube. But I only have a few more minutes.”
I flipped through the rest of Don’s portfolio then lied to Don (some things about advertising don’t change) and said I had a meeting with a client and walked him back to the lobby.
“We’ll pass your book around and I’ll get back to you.”
I wasn’t sure he believed me. But he said thank you, shook my hand and offered a good-bye. I waited with him for the elevator. He entered and pressed the lobby button.
As the doors slid closed, he stared straight at me and with a half smile added, “Good luck with your next meeting.”
Wait a minute, I thought. Wasn’t that Roger’s line?