One of those things that has been occupying my spare brain cycles has been Mad Men. For some reason I watched season 6 on the TV this year.
Tangent Warning: I know. Everybody who watched it from the beginning of time complained about this year. Well, I didn’t know anything when I watched this season. I was a complete blank slate or in some ways against it. Being a contrarian, since ‘all the smart people’ were watching Mad Men, I concluded it must be a complete suck-up and stayed far away. Also I’m like James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams, as soon as someone starts talking about “the ’60s” I want to get my can of pest spray. Season 6 was some of the best TV I’d watched, so I’ve been catching up now half way through season 4. My general take is that season 1 was so good that people were still talking about that during season 2 and 3. The Kodak scene is worth the entire show, and its a great book end to season 6 scene where Don tells the real story and “s***s all over the table”. In reading the bible you’d call that an inclusio. But overall the experience at the end of season 3 was something like the Hunger Games books. You read Hunger Games over-night because you can’t put it down. It reads that well. Then you read the next two on the vapors of book one. You’d put it down half-way through book three if not just for the “how does it end?” question. Season 4 while not reaching the emotional toll of season 1 is better than 2 and 3. The tough thing to keep in mind is that even “bad” seasons are better than most television, but the nostalgia for season 1 is almost painful. /End Tangent
OK, back to main point. Don Draper as the head of creative, and Peggy Olsen the understudy in an interesting sequence with a priest, basically hold “the customer” in contempt. It is not really contempt, but “I know what will sell widgets and connect emotionally, and you don’t”. That is the hubris, in Don & Peggy’s cases earned, of the professional. Peggy expresses this with the priest after the CYA council has savaged her beautiful flyers. “Your job is to make them accept the idea, not split the difference” – or something to that effect after the priest with the older ladies kills the entire creative flyer by watering it down. Don expresses this multiple times, but when he “fires” Jantzen swimwear is the essence. The client is selling bikinis, but they don’t want to be “too sexy”. The add that Don actually creates meets the letter, but rubs the spirit in their face. (The pictures are the ad from the show and a real ad from the era. Notice how Don has a girl in pig-tails and doesn’t actually show anything, but the entire ad is a mild tease at least by today’s standards.) When they don’t like it, Don tells them to leave, he doesn’t want their account. And he is right from a business stand point. Don knows their business better than they do. There are times when the customer is just flat wrong, sometimes embarrassingly wrong. As Steve Jobs would say, the customer doesn’t know what they want.
Now Don and Peggy’s purpose is to increase sales. The church’s purpose is to make disciples (Matt 28:19-20). There is a bottom line sales portion there, but only concentrating on that is a big mistake. The purpose is not to goose attendance but to create disciples who persevere even in the hard times. You can take a customer-is-always-right approach, but that approach is never really good creative. It is always lukewarm mush. Those who are left behind in the old “Sterling Cooper” at the end of season 3 in season 4 express just that. The better account man, Ken Cosgrove, who is also an published artist, complains about the idiocy of the merged entity enough that he is willing to subordinate himself to Pete Campbell to reclaim some integrity. Now think about what that means in church. What kind of church do you want? One that takes a “customer is always right” approach and that is always trying to find out what that is and serve it? Or one that acts like Don & Peggy – we have a better way. Which church is expressing confidence? Which church would make disciples?
Now ask the next question, is the low-church praise band the warmed over mush or Don & Peggy? Can you see Don or Peggy in the typical suburban mega-church? (FYI, one of the funniest if sacrilegious tweaks of the show was Peggy creating a “Mom Icon” to sell popsicles. Here is an article that is trying to express some of the same things I’ve been thinking about while watching Mad Men. The funniest point is the “serve yourself” communion. That would be the essence of the mush, the customer is always right, church. When you feel like it, please come take the body of Christ that we’ve left out on the table along with the grape juice to wash it down. The church has (or should have) better taste.