Media Training for Mad Men: How The DeVilling Group Would Handle Don Draper

Here at The DeVilling Group, we love the television show Mad Men.   The fictional account of a 1960s ad agency often has story lines that remind us of situations we’ve encountered in past (and occasionally current) agency jobs.  In this season’s premier, one of the story lines really hit home.

Don Draper, the brooding yet brilliant creative director, was the subject of a profile in the trade publication Ad Age.  But, the profile is less than flattering and causes great angst among his colleagues, as it is a missed opportunity for the agency.  When confronted about why the article didn’t contain certain pertinent facts, Don angrily retorts, “What was I supposed to do?  That was the reporter’s job.”

Of course, Don missed the boat.  Rather than looking at the interaction with the reporter as a strategic opportunity, he looked at it as a nuisance.  He should have prepared for the interview the way he prepares for a client pitch. 

If we were the PR firm for the agency Sterling, Cooper, Draper and Lane, how would we have counseled him to prepare?

The first question to ask…what are the pros and cons of doing the interview?  On the positive side, it would be good exposure for the agency and can help position the firm as a fast-rising, risk-taking creative agency.  On the negative side, would doing the interview cause more harm than good?  In last night’s episode, failure to mention one of the clients cost the agency a significant piece of business.

In this case, we would have to say “Mr. Draper, this interview is a great opportunity.  But, make sure we mention all the firm’s clients so no one feels slighted.”  In a case where there are multiple clients, we would likely provide a list to the reporter and ask that they be included in a side-bar, if possible.

Next, we would sit down with Mr. Draper and possibly one or two other executives to determine the agency’s key messages.  What are the firm’s unique strengths?  What are some examples of its work that underscore its risk-taking creative approach? 

Once Mr. Draper and the team agree on the messages to convey, we would then turn to what likely questions would be asked by the reporter.  We would do practice interviews with Mr. Draper to ensure he was prepared for as many questions as possible.  With practice, the agency’s key messages would become a habit.

By taking these simple steps Mr. Draper, or any executive facing an interview, would be well prepared to turn the interview into something positive, raising the visibility of the agency, which could lead to more business down the line.

Mr. Draper concluded the episode by doing a sit-down interview with a reporter from The Wall Street Journal.  He seemed to go off half-cocked again…we’ll see next week if this one blows up in his face or not!



  1. Great post. I was hoping to see some follow-up from the PR world on the season premiere, and your post pretty much hammers the nail on its head.

    I, too, am curious whether his tell-all with the Journal will help or hinder. Curious: what would TDG’s counsel be to SCDP regarding the staged ham fight and the press coverage it subsequently “earned?”

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