A Sunday night surprise

1961-jaguar-e-type-on-exhibition-floorLuxury car manufacturer Jaguar has been riding a recent crest of popularity thanks to its featured role in AMC's ‘Mad Men.’

The iconic British automaker's account has been in play for several episodes, and Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce has been pulling out all the stops to win the prestigious piece of business. (Note: Ad agencies believe they haven't arrived until they've landed a car account.)

SCDP creative teams labored for hours trying to pinpoint the emotional need that Jaguar filled in the well-healed, middle-aged male target demo's world. Don and Pete & Co. likened the Jaguar to a mistress: Stunning, expensive and moody. They toyed with the slogan, 'Jaguar: the mistress who will do things your wife won't.' After countless hours, they nailed the creative with a superlative tagline: ‘Jaguar: Finally something you can afford.’

But then, the plot, and the real-world Jaguar folks soaking up every second of their 15 minutes of fame, hit a serious speed bump. Herb Rennet, president of the fictional Jaguar Dealers Association, and one of three key decision-makers in selecting a new ad agency, makes it clear he will only vote for Sterling Cooper if he gets to sleep with Joan Holloway Harris, the firm's resident vixen.

Joan mulls it over, and eventually agrees in exchange for a five percent equity stake in the business and the title of junior partner. She sleeps with Rennet, Sterling Cooper wins the account and the viewer is left feeling in need of a hot shower. Did Joan actually just sell her body for a partnership in the firm? And, what must the real-world Jaguar types be thinking of this salacious show-stopper?

David Pryor, VP-brand development for JaguarUSA, wasn't thrilled. He watched Sunday night's episode with “…equal parts shock and amusement.” I'll bet. He probably also updated his resume right around the time Joan swiveled her hips and allowed Herb to unzip her dress.

To his credit, though, Pryor laughed it off, saying, “As I watched the show, I was wondering where the pitch was going to go, especially with the whole mistress thing.” He said he did like the emotional connection Sterling Cooper was making between the brand and the lust men had for it way back when. Pryor said Jaguar's current campaign, entitled, 'How alive are you?' is trying to recreate that emotion. He didn't mention whether prostitution was also being resurrected as part of the new value proposition.

The Jaguar/Mad Men episode is a superb example of the importance of losing control in modern storytelling. Pryor said Jaguar had no control over the script and was asked only to provide examples of Jaguar advertising and dealer showrooms from the 1960s.

I believe the Mad Men exposure (and, I use that word in the broadest sense) will be positive for the Jaguar brand. I think buyers will recognize the Joan twist for what it was: a Hollywood contrivance the writers believed necessary to escalate a real-world scenario.

My hat is off to Mr. Pryor and the Jaguar executives for showing the courage to lose control. I believe the winners in tomorrow's marketing world will be those executives and those brands who, like Pryor and his employer (at least, I hope he still draws a Jaguar paycheck after Sunday night's surprise), are willing to be vulnerable, open and lose control.

7 thoughts on “A Sunday night surprise

  1. The Ad Age article made note of the irony, Julie. As for this blogger, nothing surprises me anymore. Hamm and Slattery are white hot at the moment and cashing in on their fame. Jaguar’s loss is Mercedes and Lincoln’s gain.

  2. The correct tag line was:
    “Jaguar: At last, something beautiful you can truly own.”
    Does anyone find it ironic that both Jon Hamm and John Slattery’s voices are used in Mercedes and Lincoln commercials, which air during “Mad Men”?

  3. A certain woman named Stacy had the exact same smile on her face as she departed the hallowed halls of Peppercom way back when.

  4. It’s the episode I’ve been waiting for! I was worried the show had lost its edge. I’m interested to see what they do with Peggy’s story…loved the smile on her face at the end.

  5. Thanks for the correction, Stacy. Was that not one of the all-time great Mad Men episodes? The series started slowly this season, but it’s really picking up steam. Peggy’s departure was also a nice twist. Don handled it quite well, I thought.

  6. The tagline was “Finally, something beautiful you can truly own.” I only point it out because it did tie into the Joan story. I think you’re right that the salaciousness of the story-line ultimately will not detract from the benefits the exposure on Mad Men will provide. David Pryor seems to be taking it all in stride.