Fall Harvest And Mad Men

Yesterday Mary Claire and I flew back to our Blackhawk home in northern California. Blackhawk sits in the East Bay at the base of Mt. Diablo, which provides the highest vista in the Bay Area. The weather in the East Bay is much closer to that in Napa and Sonoma Valleys than the weather in San Francisco. The cool morning air with gradual warming during the day, along with all the winery information I have received lately, reminded me that harvest is in full swing. The early predictions are for an excellent harvest that should yield, in several years, some spectacular '09 vintage wines.


The fall harvest in wine appellations around the globe reminds one of the rhythms of life that we often take for granted. The fall is a special season beyond what crops are harvested and eventually make their way to our dining room tables, and in some cases to our wine cellars to age and mature -- it is also the season that gives us football. On campuses across the country the stadiums are once again filled on Saturdays with fans pulling for their school's team. At this point Florida is #1 in all the polls, followed by Texas and Alabama. We will take in the Boston College vs. North Carolina State game in two weeks in Chestnut Hill. In spite of this year being billed as a rebuilding year, the Boston College Eagles have remained competitive in the ACC and find themselves 4-1 as the showdown in South Bend with the Irish of Notre Dame looms on October 24th.


On Sundays our attention turns to the NFL. With only four games played in a 16-game season, it is much too early to predict the February Super Bowl combatants, but with Eli Manning and the Giants matching his brother Peyton Manning's Colts 4-0 record, there is an outside chance that we could see an epic brother vs. brother Super Bowl. I trust that I will hear from many friends and colleagues with alternative scenarios and teams!


Fall is also an excellent time for those of us in the advertising business to focus on closing out '09 and preparing for '10, where we all hope that we will find improved fortunes for our own companies and our industry. For a look back at the advertising industry in the '60s, I recommend AMC's superbly written drama Mad Men, built around the fictional Sterling Cooper advertising agency. It is written and produced by the talented Matthew Weiner. Weiner's previous credits include being an executive producer and writer on The Sopranos. John Hamm plays the lead as the creative director Don Draper, around whom there is always mystery and intrigue. In many ways it carries us back to a simpler time in the ad business, when campaigns and fortunes were built around relationships often forged over long lunches and dinners. I must admit, though, that I do not recall all of the office drinking, which is a staple in the offices of Sterling Cooper. Perhaps those of us on the media side missed what really was driving the creative?


As we prepare for '10 and try to forget the pain of '09, it would serve us well to remember that even in the age of Google and automated, search-driven advertising, relationships matter, and we need to partner with our clients to find new and creative ways for them to reach their target audiences in a way that will be impactful. Search or lead generation will continue to be an essential part of the marketing mix, but our clients are looking for opportunities that will allow their products and services to be distinguished from their competitors, and in this way we have much in common with Don Draper and the Sterling Cooper team.


For those of you who cannot get enough of Mad Men and would like a Monday morning analysis of each Sunday's episode, I highly recommend MediaPost's MADBLOG, by Dorothy Parker. You can sign up to have it delivered by email to your inbox at www.mediapost.com.