mad men - presenting stories that tie us together

It's now been a couple of weeks since we saw Peggy land the Burger Chef account in Mad Men's mid-season finale, so we hope there's less of a risk of spoiling the episode. There is so much to pick up from this 4-minute pitch that I wanted to look at it in more detail.

"Every great ad tells a story" – Don Draper

The pitch takes place the day after the first moon landing in 1969, and Peggy weaves that shared cultural event into the breakdown of family meal times and ultimately why America should spend more time eating fast food away from the home. She begins by talking about how we all came together to experience this monumental moment in human existence and how important it is - it is all encompassing, it is all of us.

She then brings it closer to home, and talks about the many distractions in the modern home of the late 1960s: TV, the Vietnam War, the Rolling Stones - even the washing up. She makes it even more personal by disclosing a fragment of her own life. It becomes apparent that America needs to return to a utopian place where there are no distractions, a place where the family can unite again – in this case, Burger Chef.

This is a brilliant example of taking, or even creating, a unique problem and then making that problem worse by creating pain and tension - all before offering the perfect solution. Steve Jobs famously used this device in 2007 when launching the first iPhone. Before showing his audience the latest innovation from Apple he systematically conjured up non-existent problems in all existing smart phones – small keys, tiny screens, stylus pens, too complicated to use etc. The problems didn't exist but, once we saw the iPhone, they were suddenly very real.

This is an incredibly efficient way to create buy in from your audience. It also provides them with a sense of great relief that you solved the troubling problem and helped improve their lives. Of course your solution needs to do that!

Whilst Peggy continues sharing her story of the night before she remains seated and is part of the group - she is one of us. Even though the pitch begins the moment she starts speaking, the line is blurred. At the crucial moment - where she is going to show the ad itself - she stands in silence and turns, saying "What if…" and the solution is revealed. It is a perfect move and one I'm sure the director meticulously choreographed.

I don’t think you need a Hollywood director to shape your next pitch, but it is worth considering where you would like to be at any given moment within your story. Use your territory to build drama or take control. Where you are physically positioned will have a very different effect on your audience. How would you like your audience to feel?

Finally I wanted to talk about the way Peggy uses her eye contact - which can be best observed with the sound muted. She uses eye contact to systematically hold each individual's attention as she speaks. Her eyes make sure everyone is involved and no one is left out.

It's sometimes natural to give eye contact almost exclusively to the so-called important person in the room - or the loudest, or the most controversial. Sharing your eye contact across the audience makes the experience inclusive to everyone and, if there is one key decision-maker present, they are most likely going to appreciate you more for doing so.

Image credit: Flickr


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