Mad Men: Publicity And Presentation Tips From Don Draper

Rob LynchUncategorized

Well, technology is a glittering lure. But there’s the rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash, if they have a sentimental bond with the product.


Mad Men Season 7. I love the show on so many levels, but for me, the scene I watch over and over is Don’s Carousel pitch to Eastman Kodak in the Season One finale, “The Wheel.”

Aside from being riveting television, Don provides some practical lessons for pitching your business or your client (what to say) and some valuable presentation tips (how to say it).

What to say

“My first job, I was in-house at a fur company, with this old pro copywriter, Greek, named Teddy.” Don’s greatest influence and his approach to advertising is an engaging story. Most entrepreneurs create small businesses because they felt they could build a better mouse trap. We want to hear that story. We love underdogs and risk takers. We love companies that were started in their garage and flourished. If you want people to buy your company and your products, tell more stories. One of my favorites – Clif Bar.


“And Teddy told me the most important idea in advertising is ‘new’. Creates an itch. You simply put your product in there as a kind of… calamine lotion.” Calling your product “new” can get you in the door, but new only goes so far. The other popular manifestation of “new” these days is “revolutionary”, “innovative” and “groundbreaking.” I’m not a huge fan because unless the company has changed an industry (or four like Apple), I think its better to share why you what do and why people should care, which brings us to the next point.

Tug the Heart Strings

“Teddy told me that in Greek, ‘nostalgia’ literally means ‘the pain from an old wound.'” Too often, companies talk about what they do or their product’s features. In many cases, they’re speaking to the head, not the heart. But anyone who’s ever been in a relationship knows that humans don’t always operate rationally. They operate emotionally. There’s a reason why chocolate bars and soda displays are near the counter of every convenience store and gas station. So how can you tap into your audience’s emotions? How do you want them to feel? Empowered? Safe? Trusted? Efficient? Alert? Or to simplify – sad, mad, glad or scared? For a great example, see Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company. The company name alone speaks volumes.


How to say it
Own the room

Don always seems calm, comfortable and confident and in control. He relishes the opportunity to share his creative ideas.

“They came here to see you.” That’s what Paola Coletto said during a red nose mask for improvisers class I took last summer. With that in mind, what if we approached every media/new business pitch as if they were there to see us and hear what we had to say. What if we approached it from a “I can’t wait to share this with you” vs. “I hope you like it” perspective?


Give them a glass of water vs. a drink from a fire hose. In the scene, Don delivers a key message. Then flips to the slide and let’s it sink in. He waits. And then goes to the next message. Too often, we are so amped up to share our media pitch with the reporter or our proposal with potential clients that we rush through it and don’t give the material a chance to sink in or the reporter or the client a chance to respond. Or we provide 25 key messages when we only need three. Slow down. Keep it simple.


Show, don’t tell. Less words, more pictures. How many Power Point decks have you seen that are Word docs with pretty backgrounds?

Certainly, “The Wheel” makes for compelling television, but for a real world application of these points, go back and watch Steve Jobs’ original iPhone keynote launch. Great storytelling, strong emotional pull, own the room, controlled pace, and obviously extremely strong visuals. All very compelling with a strong sense of theatricality.

Let me know what you think. And how has Don Draper and Mad Men influenced how you pitched the media or new business?