Even the least savvy of consumers can tell you that advertising, ultimately, is about selling something.
It’s not about poetry, it’s not about groundbreaking ideas and it’s not about those inspired speeches Don Draper delivers to clients—those are all the means to an end, and it all ends with your hand on your wallet. This week’s episode, however, reminded us that the folks at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce often have to sell themselves to get a chance to push a product.
When one of the Jaguar guys boldly demands an evening with Joan, Pete’s the only one with the audacity to ask her about it. She, of course, is offended and shuts down the idea, but Pete later mentions it to the partners and implies that she’s giving it serious consideration. They vote in favor of extending the company’s credit and offering her $50,000 (several times what she makes in a year) if she’ll sleep with Herb from Jaguar and keep them in the running for the account. Of course, none of the other partners know that Lane has already extended their credit in a failed attempt to alleviate some of his own personal debt. Therefore, he convinces Joan to demand a voting partnership instead, which will instead give her a much bigger share of the company’s profits and help her provide for her son.
Meanwhile, Don and the creative team are busy trying to figure out how to sell their campaign to Jaguar. They toy with the idea of the sexy sports car as a mistress, but Don—motivated perhaps by his feelings about Joan’s indecent proposal—ultimately decides that the idea is “vulgar” and kills it. They settle on the notion that the car is for men who feel that nothing’s ever good enough, and Ginsberg comes up with the winning line: “Jaguar: At last, something beautiful you can truly own.”
It’s a glaringly obvious metaphor, but it works because it’s, well, true. The entitled men on Mad Men are constantly trying to wrap their fingers around beauty—whether that’s a shiny, new sports car or a redhead who happens to catch their eye. What they don’t realize, however, is that they’re the ones being had. As Don says during his pitch, “This car. This thing. What price would we pay? What behavior would we forgive?” These powerful men become putty at the sight of something pretty, and while they can spend a night—or hell, a few years—with the women or the objects they desire, they’re the ones being owned. Because, that beautiful thing? She just got made partner.
That’s right, Joan—perhaps motivated by the financial difficulties of single motherhood, perhaps by the fact that she thought Don was on board with the decision—went through with it. Don, however, was actually pretty vehemently opposed to the whole affair. When the idea went to a vote with the partners, he “got mad and left” and they voted without him. When he finds out that the results were pro-prostitute Joanie, he storms out of the office and heads over to her apartment, where he tells her she doesn’t have to go through with it. Her eyes get real big and she says, “I was under the impression it was a unanimous decision” before smiling, saying “you’re a good one, aren’t you?” and reassuring him that she’s fine. It’s not until later in the episode through a flashback that it’s revealed she’d already gone through with it by that time. One has to wonder whether she would have done it had she known Don didn’t want her to.
Perhaps most surprising was this week’s revelation that Peggy’s selling herself against Don’s wishes as well—albeit in a totally different way. After he humiliates her for the umpteenth time rather than congratulating her on a good idea, she decides to start taking a few meetings. At first, her intentions seem to be to just prove her worth to Don by coming back with a few offers she can throw in his face and use as leverage. However, she meets with Ted Chaough, and after selling her on his appreciation of her work (something Don rarely—if ever—feels compelled to do), he offers her the position of copy chief and a salary of $19,000, a whole grand more than she asked for. Pack it up and put it in the car, Pegs. Sold.
Don then gets dealt two major blows within minutes. Roger calls all the partners into his office to receive the news that Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce has won the Jaguar account, and Don looks pained as he notices Joan’s in the room. She’s a partner now, and that can only mean that she went ahead and slept with ol’ Herb. Disturbed by this, he calls Peggy into his office wanting to know what she has to talk to him about. She’s hesitant at first, but she eventually gives him her two weeks’ notice in what will likely go down as one of the series’ most memorable moments. Don, fighting back tears, declares that he’ll top any number she was offered. “There is no number,” she responds. She and Don share a painfully tender moment as he kisses the hand she extended for a handshake. He grips it seemingly forever before she pulls away and says, “Don’t be a stranger,” grabs her stuff and walks through the hall to the elevator for the last time. The elevator opens, a little smile appears on her face and—in typical Matthew Weiner fashion—the music perfectly matches the action as The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” starts to play: “Girl, you really got me now. You got me so I don’t know what I’m doing…”
See, guys? Be careful. You thought you were getting a car or a pretty woman or a meek-yet-talented underling to push around. But it turns out you don’t own that all that stuff you bought. It’s really got you.
-Megan tried to sell herself this week too, to casting directors as she auditioned for a role but didn’t get it. With only two episodes left, it’ll be interesting to see how her career choices (and the strain they’ve put on her marriage) play out this season.
-”When deep beauty is encountered, it arouses deep emotions.”