What New Business People Can Learn from Don Draper.


Everybody certainly knows Mad Men and its leading character Don Draper, Creative Director of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.  I was listening to an NPR story recently about the launch of the new season.  In an excerpt from the new episode somebody ask Don what account he would love to win more than any other.  He said American Airlines because they rejected the agency before.

While chasing rejection is one of the biggest mistakes agencies make in New Business and in life, in some cases it makes sense.

If you are passionate about an account and don’t win it in the beginning it is not necessarily the end of the story.

I always remember the story of that advertising great Keith Reinhard who as head of DDB once won the McDonald’s account and then lost a significant portion of the business and then won it back.  Something very unusual in the business.  He had a commitment and DDB continues to have a large portion of the McDonald’s account today.

Too many agencies after losing a pitch walk away from the category and the client rather than staying in touch.

If you are one of the finalists in a pitch and lose in the finals, I recommend maintaining in contact with the key decision makers especially if the review was close and you had some solid chemistry.  You can just check in every couple of months and send items that you think could be pertinent.

In networking and in New Business if you want people to be thinking of you, you have to start by thinking of them.

You see in this world of change, clients move to other opportunities, personnel changes occur at the winning agency and other things happen.

I always believe that agencies should pursue business in category clusters. What I mean by that is pitch the top accounts in any vertical.  The knowledge you have acquired in pitching one is generally applicable to their competitors.  You won’t get a competitive account in the same month but why lose the investment of all that learning you put into the pitch.

I remember personally coming in second on a piece of business we wanted to win.  I had good chemistry with the client running the pitch but in the end his boss chose the new agency.  I stayed in touch with my contact on a business and social basis.  In a few months something soured with the new agency and I got a chance to pitch a project.  We won it and the business and it remained with the agency for a number of years.

Don Draper also knew that you have a great chance of winning business that you are passionate about.  It is like the pursuit of a new romance.  You may get rejected in the beginning.  But in the end if you are determined you may acquire a new conquest in life and in the advertising business.

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4 thoughts on “What New Business People Can Learn from Don Draper.

  1. Tony Altilia

    Kieth Reinhard was a giant in the business. Here is a little more detail on his winning of McDonald’s. He loved the account. He wrote the line ‘You deserve a break today’, which is possibly their most famous line. He lost the business to Leo Burnett because at the time they had more international offices. He vowed on the day he lost it he’d win it back. He began by opening offices around the globe and winning McDonald’s in many international markets. After 25 years he got to pitch USA business again. He personally led the pitch. He was front and center. And while he lived in New York at the time, he promised to buy a house in Chicago if DDB won the business back from Burnett. I was at Burnett Chicago at the time. I worked on McDonald’s International at the time. I played a very minor role in the pitch. We were awful. He was stellar. He won. I quite Burnett, returned to Toronto and eventually was the president of DDB Canada were I had the pleasure of, not working with, but meeting a few times with Keith. He loved the business. He loved McDonald’s and it showed. Passion won the day, most days with Keith Reinhard.
    Tony Altilia

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