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Ken Honeywell

Ken Honeywell
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
March 20
Well Done Marketing
I'm in love with my wife; a writer and producer living in Indianapolis; partner at Well Done Marketing; founder of Tonic Ball, a benefit concert that's become one of the city's favorite annual events; co-founder of Second Story, a creative writing program for kids; a vegetarian; lead singer of Yoko Moment; a life-long New York Mets fan; a sucker for waltz time; crazy about Pernice Brothers; etc.


Editor’s Pick
APRIL 2, 2012 7:02AM

A Company Of Dwarves

Rate: 14 Flag
If you were coming up in the ad business in the '80s, chances are great you were mightily impressed by David Ogilvy's understated classic Ogilvy On Advertising. Ogilvy and his agency were certainly part of the creative revolution of the '60s--but they were different from the rebels at Doyle Dane Bernbach with their daring Volkswagen campaign. If Bernbach was the creative heart of the business, Ogilvy was the head. He believed in research. While Bernbach was making ads look as much like ads as possible, Ogilvy's revelation was that your ad does not have to look like an ad at all. Make it look like a magazine article, and people will read all the way down to the logo and maybe never even realize they've been snookered.

By the '80s, Ogilvy was pontificating from his castle in France. So it was easy to imagine that he knew whereof he spoke.

One of the smartest things in the book, though, was Ogilvy's advice on hiring. He gave every new hire a set of Russian nesting dolls. Inside the last was a slip of paper. It read: "If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants." Today Ogilvy & Mather is one of the biggest ad agencies in the world.

Speaking of giants, "Tea Leaves," Episode 3 of the fifth season of Mad Men, opens with our old friend Betty Francis attempting to stuff herself into a party dress and failing miserably. (Actually, Bobby and Sally are the ones doing the stuffing. They tug on the dress and lean on the zipper until Betty gives up in disgust.) She's put on weight--a lot of weight. Matthew Weiner has chosen to use January Jones's real-life pregnancy in a very interesting way; Betty's a housewife who handles her anxiety and boredom by stuffing her face.

Or is that the reason for her weight gain? On the advice of her obese mother-in-law, Betty visits her doctor to wrangle a prescription for diet pills. But the doctor finds something else: a tumor on her thyroid. Suddenly, Betty is confronting her mortality, too, and the season premiere's central theme slides into this episode as easily as Megan slips into her own party dress. All of our old Mad Men friends are feeling their age these days.

The Generation Gap is fully agape when Don and Harry hang out backstage at a Rolling Stones show, trying to sign on Mick and the boys for a Heinz Beans commercial. A pretty teen tells Don they'll never do it, and she's right. She asks Don why people his age don't want to let the kids have any fun. But it's not that. "We're worried about you," Don says.

But Don is also worried about Betty, and what might happen to the kids if Betty dies. Megan's good with the kids, but she's a kid herself. We've seen Don Draper drunk, disheveled, angry, and flummoxed. But this is the first time we've ever seen him look old.

Megan continues to amaze. She's an extremely intelligent, intuitive person who prods Don out of this funk and tells him, in her own way, that we're all going to die and there's nothing he can do about it, so he might as well go to the beach with her. Don will almost certainly break her heart this season, and it will be a horrible thing to see. But for now, she seems a surprisingly good match for him. She loves work. She loves to party. She can sing a mean "Zou Bisou Bisou." Have you gotten that ear worm out of your head yet?

In other developments, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is hiring. They've already hired a new secretary for Don: an African-American woman named Dawn, which causes lots of snickering around the office. Also, Peggy's given the job of hiring a copywriter. Pete Campbell has talked Mohawk Airlines back into the fold, and they need a dedicated writer on the account. Stan the art director advises Peggy to hire a hack--no need to look for somebody who'd challenge her position at the agency--but Peggy has an Ogilvidian sense of duty. She wants to be great, and Michael Ginsberg, a brash, hyperactive young writer with a great book, seems to be the agency's ticket to gianthood.

Not that Ogilvy's strategy always works out. Roger, after all, hired Pete Campbell, who calls the entire agency into his big, new office to announce the Mohawk deal and belittles Roger in the process. Roger storms out and tells Don that he's tired of having to prove his worth; Don tells Roger that Betty has cancer--although at this point, we know otherwise. Once again, Roger has the show's money line, but this time, it's no joke: "When is everything going to get back to normal?" he asks.

The answer is, never. It's never going back to the way things used to be for Roger or Don or Peggy or Betty or poor Henry Francis, who got both more and less than he bargained for when he married Betty. Henry thought he was building a family of giants. Turns out that, in spite of her weight gain, Betty may be an emotional dwarf. Henry, though, is starting to realize he's been snookered. No matter how pretty the pitch, it's still disappointing when you realize it was all sizzle and no steak.

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advertising, television, tv, mad men

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Wow. Nice to get a spin on this show from someone with experience in the advertising business. I got into the show in the first season and then lost interest. Think I'll catch up on Netflix and then dive in again. Thanks. R
Fear of losing life and position and old ways seems a theme here. Mortality has a way of putting things in perspective. The fact that Ginsberg is a token Jew, Dawn is the token black, and Peggy is taking charge more portends the unsettling changes of the ad world and the world in America.
I found this episode, clumsy. Betty is something worse than sick, a fat wife, who has lost the one thing she knew was her ticket. I felt it revealing when she asks Don to tell her it's going to be ok and he calls her by her old nickname. The new guy is overly done, a caricature. As Roger puts it, I wish things would get back to normal: interesting. Also the amount of commercials was obscene.
Tried to watch Mad Men and gave up. Too many anachronisms for someone who lived through that era to take seriously. For example as far as I could tell, it's set in 1957 and the secretaries are using IBM Selectrics.
i didn't read this, just zoomed past it to leave a comment. i'm stuck in a hotel with no AMC on the tv clicker. can you imagine? i was floored last night. so i can't read what i'm sure is another one of your terrific reviews until i see the damn thing, which will be next sunday when i get home to where i hope it's recorded. damn. i'll be back.
imagine the pile of portfolios as posts, I like the injection of Ginsberg into the mix, weird dad and all
Thanks for reading, everyone.

Boanerges1: I'm sure there are anachronisms, but that's not one of them. The show's always been set in the '60s, and the Selectric appeared on the market in 1961.
Not sure about that, Ken. We watched episodes one and two from the first season, and they were talking about a Second War US Navy veteran making a run for the presidency a couple of years hence, which would place it 57-58. BTW, they were talking about Nixon, which is something I hadn't known about that ... uh ... person. There were other things as well, but I can't bring them to mind.
Good summary. It's going to be an interesting season.
Fat Betty was shocking. Wow. This is TV where even the junkies are hot. Seeing a woman as attractive as January Jones fat -- just shocking. When she is talking to her mother in law, she is looking at her future. No wonder she was fantasizing about death.

I could actually believe Dawn. After all, Price had dated a black woman. Plus, it was just about time for a business that liked to think of itself as cutting edge to have a black and a Jew. Just like adding that season's fashion accessory.

Meanwhile, it is 1966 and only one year until Sgt Peppers. The Stones at that point were the least of it. In New York, you already had the Factory and the Velvet Underground with Nico. All these comments about change, and they are barely at the cusp.

I wouldn't count Don out yet. He seems like he smiled more this season than all of the previous ones. He needs some rest and peace. Megan seems to be too much of a Jackie. She's great and all, but not very interesting. Something has to happen, but it could be anything. The current equilibrium can't hold.

Last season, Don was reading Frank O'Hara. He seems flexible enough to ride the wave. And he has always had something of a postmodern sensibility, seeing reality as something to create rather than something to discover.

But in this episode, it was all fat Betty.
Interesting descriptions and insights.
I watched the first season and I recognize some of the same themes. The weight gain, for example. Good review. :)
So glad someone is keeping us up on it this season!
I'm really enjoying your MM reviews. Having your ad experience and perspective in the mix makes for a uniquely interesting blend of analysis and critique.

Though it was certainly shocking, by the end of the episode I decided to be impressed with Weiner's choice to do the fat Betty arc. It's so rare to see a fictionalized glamour girl, or boy, faced with the harsh aesthetic realities of life. Housewives, happy and unhappy alike, do often put on weight. The problem with Betty and others of her kind is that they think the pretty package is all they have to offer. For some this is more or less true. Of course it's up to a team of writers and producers in this case, but I hope they put Betty's human condition to good use and give her character some real depth.
I was wondering what Betty's scare is meant to lead to. Is it just part of the emotional wrenches of approaching middle age? In an era where liberation of all sorts is ubiquitous, even if more in theory and rhetoric than in practice? Is a Friedanesque eruption in store? Now it looks like there's a potentially fruitful storyline to her character development.

I'm with those who've pointed out that the generation gap is going to have profound consequences in this and the coming seasons. Especially in Don's marriage. Few in his age group had come around to the Stones in 66. But more and more took the plunge over the next several years. Don has that potential but there's all sorts of plausible branches and dynamics this could take.

Back at the office, I can't see Roger just petering out. Maybe he hits on a brilliant campaign for Mohawk? Then there's the ever-intriguing Peggy. She's bound to hit some fork in the road where she has to choose the establishment or the counter-culture. It looks like the latter but by no means is it a sure bet.

After last week's reintroduction to the characters, this one sets up plenty of tantalizing paths.
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