In Mad Men Episode 509, “Dark Shadows,” Don longs to flex his old creative muscles on an account being worked on by the junior phenom, Ginsberg. In the review meetings for the Sno-Cone account, Don slips his “devil” ad concept into the mix. The team agrees that both Don’s idea and Ginsberg’s lighter “snowball in the face” campaign are both strong ideas. It’s agreed that the firm will bring both ideas in to pitch the client.
Don’s idea wins because he leaves Ginsberg’s creative in the cab, so they only pitch Don’s idea. The client buys.
Don should have felt vindicated even if his idea had lost in the end, because it had come roughly tied for first with Ginsberg’s idea in the feedback from his colleagues (some of whom didn’t fully know of Don’s involvement). Sure, it’s Ginsberg’s job to come up with the creative, but it’s equally important that Don have self-respect and that his best people respect him for more than just his past accomplishments. Having current “chops” is a bonus; it’s the difference between merely living well and being good. (Oh, not all kinds of good. Don doesn’t necessarily qualify as good, though arguably he’s less evil than some of those around him, in key situations. Unquestionably, and to his great relief, he’s still good at this.)
In the hyper-testing world of real-time-rotated ad testing that we live in, we can go one better, of course.
The boss can get a hankering to see if her ad will win. She can slip it into the mix, in a fair and even rotation. If it wins, it wins. The victory should be sweeter because there’s no leaving the other ads in the cab.
Now I’m in the business of supporting my team — not competing with them. But a little healthy competition is good for any agency, whether it self-identifies as “creative,” “data-driven,” or both.
And if my ads can’t win some of the time (or even most of the time), then Houston, we’ve got a problem. It’ll be time to don the weird slippers and sit in the lobby reading the paper… or spend more time at the country club. When that happens, you’ll be the first to know.