“Mad Men” Recap: 401, “Public Relations”
In the ensuing time between the Season 3 finale and the beginning of Season 4, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce has not only moved into swank accommodations at the Time-Life Building after a dramatic split with their British overlords, our anti-hero Don Draper has set TV advertising on fire with an ad for Glo Coat floor cleaner that looks a lot like a movie — something we all take for granted today, but when you consider how TV advertising through much of the ’50s and ’60s until the heyday of Stan Freberg was painfully on-the-nose, Draper is shaping up to be quite the revolutionary. But while he can sell a kitchen disinfectant, he seems incapable or constitutionally reluctant to sell himself: in an interview with Advertising Age, he comes off as anti-social and vapid, and the resulting article, intended to call attention to a conquering hero of Madison Avenue, paints Draper as a hollow man. His partners are not happy, and Bert Cooper gets his buddies at the Wall Street Journal on the phone.
The office dynamics are subtly different: Peggy (Elizabeth Moss) is growing into the revolutionary ad woman we suspected she would become, paying actresses to fight over a canned ham in an outer-borough grocery to build brand recognition — unlike Don, she seems well versed in the mechanics of public relations, even though she will see her stunt backfire slightly. But like Don, she seems ready to push the limits of her craft, as evidenced by the “John! Marsha!” Freberg bit that she and her new male assistant keep bandying around the office — proof that she digs the new breed.
In past seasons, Draper was more likely to kowtow to timid companies unwilling to go for the edge, but when executives at a swimwear company come in acting like the kind of milquetoast Victorians that put bloomers on piano legs, he won’t brook it. They keep insisting they are a “family company” and want a wholesome approach to selling two-piece bathing suits. Draper hits them with a print ad featuring implied nudity, and it predictably goes badly, but not only does Draper walk out, he practically runs back to give them the bum’s rush out of the office. Hell, it’s almost 1965 — get with the program, you sniveling weasels. Draper is establishing a new calling card with this: you come to SCDP if you want to win. If you’re not willing to play ball, quit taking up precious air in my office.
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