Let’s be honest, if you were a client of the fictional ad agency, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, you’d probably run for the hills. The characters are pretty blunt – if not entirely rude – with their clients in a way that probably wouldn’t fly today. Set in the 1960′s, Mad Men has received critical acclaim for its portrayal of a big-time advertising agency in New York City. The show gives its audience a glimpse into the advertising world, and even though it has changed over the decades, businesses can still glean some good advice about the agency-client relationship (just replace all the booze and cigarettes with coffee and foosball).
The main characters, Don Draper and Roger Sterling, have conflicting views about what it means to be a “professional” working for a “client.” Don Draper is the creative behind the work. His great ideas are what his clients count on, and they understand the value of his work. He is concerned by the quality of the work, not necessarily the relationship with his clients. And he has burned some bridges to prove it.
For example, in one episode Draper dropped a client for rejecting his proposed ad campaign, even though the agency desperately needed the income. Draper chastised the client by saying, “Well gentlemen you were wondering what a creative agency looks like? There you have it. Hope you enjoyed looking in the window.”
Roger Sterling, on the other hand, believes that “the client is always right and who cares if they are wrong because they pay the bill.” Unlike Draper, Sterling is mostly concerned about the client relationship: business lunches, name-dropping, and brownnosing. Sterling even forced the agency to throw a big Christmas party for its largest client, Lee Garner, Jr. of Lucky Strike. “If Lee Garner Jr. wants three wise men flown in from Jerusalem, he gets it.”
The best agencies in today’s world would ideally have a little bit of Draper and Sterling, so that they are able to compromise with their clients efficiently.
Here are some clips from the show that give us some great advice:
Being with a client is like being in a marriage:
You are the product: