My brush with a Mad Man

HAMMssss pptxOnce a year, the powers that be in the ad world convene in New York for a series of events known as Advertising Week. Yesterday’s New York Times carried a feature detailing a panel chaired by Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP fame (infamy) and focused on content. The big debate was whether brands should create their own or sponsor content that’s created by media companies. I happen to believe in both as long as the source is fully transparent.

Sir Martin’s panel specifically, and Advertising Week in general, brought back fond memories of one of my finer moments.

Several years back, we had the opportunity to represent Yahoo! At the time, they were doing a lot less acquiring and, instead, marketing their existing assets.

They came to us to ask for ideas to break through at Advertising Week with some sort of guest speaker or panel a la Sir Martin’s.

While panels have their place, we thought there was an opportunity to capture the magic that was the first year of AMC’s Mad Men series. And, so, operating on nothing more than a wing and prayer, we approached Jon Hamm’s agent.  Keep in mind this was after the first breakthrough year of the hit series and, while Hamm was big, he was very much an emerging star.

So, lo and behold, Hamm agreed (at a fairly reasonable fee, to boot). Then came the interesting part. I was asked by the client to write Ham’s speech for Advertising Week. The goal was to tie the client’s new offerings with the retro world of advertising and have Hamm serve as the link.

Needless to say, I approached our first conversation with trepidation. We jumped on a conference call with Hamm in LA and yours truly in NYC. After a few, brief introductory remarks, Hamm said, “OK, what do you want me to say?” I walked him through the key points and, unlike his Don Draper character, Hamm was both affable and compliant. At the end, he said, “Great. I have no issues with that.” I was more than relieved.

I quickly banged out a 30-minute script that was edited by the client and forwarded to Hamm for his review.

Needless to say, Hamm’s appearance at the show was the talk of Advertising Week and, true to his word, he kept to the script. He may not have been addressing the future of branded content, but Hamm nonetheless generated as much ink for Yahoo! as Sir Martin did yesterday for his king-sized conglomerate.

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