Diary of a Mad Man
By Adam Kleinberg
For about three years, I've been predicting to anyone who would listen that the final episode of Mad Men would surely end with Don Draper tossing himself from a balcony and resolving into the falling man from the opening title sequence.
Surely, the seven-season-long existential crisis would end in a splat.
Spolier alert: It didn't.
It would have been easy to kill Don. It certainly would have made sense. A statement was being painted all season—perhaps all seven seasons—a statement about our dear industry. Advertising, you evil beast. You womanizing, alcoholic, disloyal, divorce-causing, family-wrecking, soul-sucking, sellout of a business. Kill yourself now. There's no other point.
But with one deftly penned Om and a smirk, the writers reminded us—at least they reminded me—why we're in this business. This was a Mad Men for the ad men (and ladies). Sure, advertising has a dirty, sweaty underbelly, but it's our underbelly dammit and grit and grime is the stuff of humanity. What other business in the world calls on you week in and week out to peer into humanity and seek out inspiration? What a treat it is to get paid to step back and think about the "truths" that connect us as human beings.
I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony...
And just like that, we're reminded why we've all admired Don Draper all these years despite his fallings as a human being. It's not the looks or the money or the women. It's the way he sees things. It's the Kodak meeting when he names the wheel a carousel. It is the inspiration he finds in humanity.
Don, Roger, Peggy, Pete and Joan reminded us there always been a price to pay for the chance to do this work for a living. Many people will not like the ending of Mad Men. Many will simply not get it.
For those of us who really love advertising, Mad Men ended in perfect harmony.
In order to maintain competitive advantage, brands must create compelling experiences at every single touch point. And stories are a great way to do that.
In 2014, senior marketers from at least half a dozen brands expressed frustration with me over a gap in their agency portfolio.
Reflecting on the value of freedom.