Ketchup is not glamorous.
It follows, then, that this week’s most telling line on Mad Men references “the prestige that comes with ketchup.” Money talks, and with it comes power, luxury and a whole lot of people willing to take secret meetings to satisfy you, and after a while it’s easy to forget you got where you are by hawking something so ordinary, a product so run-of-the-mill and full of Americana that—though a staple of almost any fridge—it runs the risk of seeming too familiar.
It’s not champagne or caviar, but ketchup—specifically Heinz ketchup—is a big deal for the agency, so much so that Don, Pete and Stan go behind Ken’s back to cook up a presentation for the condiment giant. Everyone thinks they’re working on something big and exciting—and they’re half-right. Ginsburg guesses “Project K” is some top-secret defense contract. If he only knew Don was bending over backwards for something we slather on top of our hamburgers.
What everyone at SCDP knows, however, is that while the ketchup itself isn’t elegant, the money the account will bring in certainly is—and that discrepancy between how we see ourselves and how we’re perceived by others played into nearly every storyline this week. Don’s secretary Dawn finally got some screen time, and we find out that while her friend assumes that working in an advertising agency on Madison Avenue would lead to all sorts of affairs with glamorous men, her job is actually killing her social life. Each day, she puts her head down and tries as hard as possible not to stand out. She’s always the last to leave, which is why other fun-loving secretaries ask her to punch their timecards at the end of the day.
You’d think by now that Joan has successfully transitioned out of the ketchup world of the secretary pool and into the booze-and-bon-bons life of an executive, but this week we learn she doesn’t feel that way. She still spends her days policing naughty secretaries or scolding receptionists, and after she attempts to fire his girl Scarlett, Harry storms into the partners’ meeting and demands to be included, saying “I’m sorry my accomplishments happened in broad daylight.” Ouch. Looks like Harry—who is most definitely ketchup, dependable but never flashy—is sick of people seeing him a certain way too.
Her old friend is in town, and after Joan schools her on how to pick up her waiter, they both wind up making out with random guys at a trippy-looking club. When they wake up the next morning, her friend admits that the job interview she had at Avon was really a flimsy excuse to visit Joan and see how she lives. Joan’s flattered, but she insists her life’s not what everyone thinks it is. “I’ve been there for 15 years, and they still make me feel like a secretary,” she sighs.
Meanwhile, Don and Megan get misread by a pair of swingers at dinner. It’s an honest mistake, sort of—outsiders look at them and see a wealthy, modern couple and make certain assumptions about their lifestyle. They balk at the proposition, and later we see Don’s so jealous he can’t even handle Megan kissing another man during a love scene on her soap opera, likening it to prostitution.
See, Don’s ketchup masquerading as a gourmet meal. So when it comes time to pitch Heinz, there’s nary a bottle or a drop of the stuff in sight. He doesn’t even use the word “ketchup”—”Pass the Heinz,” reads the copy. He essentially pitches Heinz the same way he pitched Jaguar, and it doesn’t go over well. On their way out, the SCDP team runs into Peggy and her CGC cronies, and Don seems genuinely surprised to see her. Of course he is; he’s always taken her for granted, and now it’s finally hitting him that she’s the competition. But while he never treated her like the indispensable team member she was, Don realizes that Peggy is capable of great work, and he shoos everyone else away before leaning against the door and listening in on her pitch.
Peggy takes it in the complete opposite direction, and the Heinz guys eat it up (pun intended). She embraces the fact that she’s selling ketchup, mentions catsup as a weak alternative and tells them, “If you don’t like what people are saying, change the conversation” before revealing her ad: “Heinz: the only ketchup” it reads, above a giant bottle of the stuff. She and Ted walk out triumphant.
The prestige that comes with ketchup.
-Those weren’t the only people trying to change the conversation about themselves. The Broadway Joe TV special Harry sells is an attempt to make a football star seem more sophisticated and cultured and paint Dow Chemical in a better light, and Sylvia’s discussion with Don about the cross she wears reminds us she’s not exactly practicing what she’s preaching by sleeping with him.
-”If he wants people to stop hating him, he should stop dropping napalm on children.”
-Was it just me, or did Stan look like Grizzly Adams with his beard and his fringe coat?
-”A hot dog cries out for mustard.” Yes, Don! Chicago-style hot dogs for life.
-Interesting that Don would volunteer at the dinner table that he’s against the war in Vietnam.