Mad Men: “Public Relations”

This episode begins with Don giving an interview to a reporter from Advertising Age. Unfortunately, Don doesn’t see the point in it, and comes off as aloof and secretive. This leaves the reporter to fill in the blanks, something that will haunt both Don and his new firm in the near future.


Roger and Pete approach the table where Don is sitting with the reporter. They’re there to take Don to the Sheraton, where the agency will take place in a “cattle call” with representatives of the Jantzen (swimwear) company. The meeting doesn’t go as well as they might have hoped: Murray emphasizes that Jantzen is a family company, and they’re not about to stoop to (what they consider to be) the near pornography of their competitor’s ads.

We then see the three walk into the new offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, where we get a quick visual tour of the office. Cooper meets Don to ask why he didn’t meet with a client; he then moans about the tiny size of their offices. Pete, amazingly cheerful, asks Don what the problem with the meeting was. Don says that the company never had the chance, as Y&R were due up after SCDP.

Peggy – with her new hairdo – is in her office with an assistant when Pete walks in with a canned ham and bad news: the client, Sugarberry, promised to send everyone hams, but instead sent a single ham in a box with no note. The three of them point fingers at each other as to who’s to blame for the mess.

We then see Don meeting with his attorney, who suggests that Don force Betty to move out of “his” house. According to a separation agreement, she was supposed to be out by October 1.

Back in Peggy’s office, the three brainstorm as to how they can get cheap exposure for Sugarberry. Peggy asks how much it would cost to buy all the hams from the test stores, then asks how much it would cost to hire 100 women to “wait in line” for the hams. Pete is against the idea – not only is it expensive, SDCP doesn’t “do” publicity stunts… and besides, you can’t charge the client for them. Peggy then asks about two women fighting over a single ham, and possibly getting arrested. Pete and Peggy decide to go ahead… without telling Don.

Roger then walks in to Don’s office to find him lying down on the sofa. Roger says that he’s worried about Don, and offers to hook him up on a blind date. Don isn’t excited, but doesn’t object when Roger asks Don’s secretary to make dinner reservations for this upcoming Saturday.

We then get our first glimpse of Don’s spartan and kind of depressing apartment. Celia, Don’s housekeeper, greets him, saying that she’s made him some pork chops. Don thanks her, and Celia notes that he never eats anything. Don grabs a newspaper and turns on the TV, then asks Celia where she put his shoe shine kit. He shines his shoes and watches some commercials on TV.

The next night, we see Don on his date with Bethany. It’s not “love at first sight” (she seems an awful lot like Betty!) but she interests him enough that they exchange passionate kisses. She asks if she will see him at Roger and Jane’s for Thanksgiving, but he says that he already has plans.

It’s now Sunday, and we’re taken to a diner, where Peggy and Pete assure the two actresses they’ve hired that their names will appear in Monday’s (New York) Daily News. He hands them envelopes with money inside, but the actresses seem to have taken their “fight” a bit too seriously.

Monday morning, a sunburned Harry Crane walks in to Joan’s office. He’s back from Los Angeles, which he says was “very hard to leave”. He asks Joan to schedule a meeting because he’s sold the jai alai special to ABC. He begs her to keep it a secret.

Don walks into the office to find Roger and Lane waiting for him. They’ve read the Advertising Age piece, and Roger’s not happy with the result, which he thought should have been an advertisement for the agency.

We then see Peggy and Joey walk in to Pete’s office. He has good news: everyone at Sugarberry is excited about the news of the publicity stunt. Peggy, musing over the incident, comes up with a new slogan for the company: Our hams are worth fighting for”. Peggy imagines a cartoon Pilgrim and Indian fighting over the ham, and demands that Joey come up with something in an hour. Just then, Ho-Ho calls the office, and Pete shoos Peggy out.

Roger, Don, Lane, Bert and Harry are sitting in an office when Pete walks in with bad news: Ho-Ho is leaving the agency, because Don didn’t mention them in the Advertising Age article. Harry is furious, as he’s just sold the special to ABC. Don defends himself by saying that he didn’t mention any clients. He says that the agency will survive, but Lane says that without Ho-Ho, Lucky Strike represents 71% of their business. Pete tells Harry to call Ho-Ho back in an hour with the news about the special, and to pretend that he hasn’t heard about them leaving.

Bert says that Don will have to do another interview, this time with The Wall Street Journal. Don rhetorically asks what he could do differently, and Bert tells him.

The episode goes to break, and when it returns, it’s now Thanksgiving Day 1964. We see Betty and Henry, along with Sally and Bobby, having dinner with Henry’s family. But there’s tension in the air: Henry’s mom seems to be in a foul mood, and when she asks Sally if she likes the food, Miss Draper simply says “no”. Betty tries force feeding her, and roughly grabs her by the arm and takes her away when Sally “chokes” on some sweet potatoes (it’s not clear to me whether she was actually choking or just being a little drama queen).

Don, meanwhile, is back at his apartment. He has hired a prostitute, and he demands that she slap him as the two have sex.

We then see Don asleep, post-sex. The phone rings, and the prostitute answers. She says the call is for Don, and when Don asks why she answered the phone, she says that it rang so much that she couldn’t take it any more. He takes the phone, and it’s Peggy, who says that she needs $280 for bail money. She’s then obligated to explain to him about the publicity stunt. When Don tells her to call Pete. Peggy says that Don wasn’t her first phone call.

Peggy then knocks on Don’s door, where he gives her a tongue lashing for not running the idea by him first. Although everything he says is true, it’s delivered in such a rude manner that Mark, who introduces himself as Peggy’s fiancee, objects. There’s a pause, and Don gives her the money. After he closes the door Peggy turns to Mark and asks why he said they were engaged.

Later that night, Betty tries to get frisky with Henry in Don’s bed, but they are interrupted by Sally, who is trying to call Don. When Betty comes back to bed, Henry, claiming to be full from dinner, ignores her advances and says that they should go to a nice restaurant the next day.

The next day, Don comes to pick up the kids. Unsurprisingly, there’s much tension between Don and Betty. After Don leaves, Henry (who shooed Betty away the previous night) gets frisky with her in the car.

We then see Don tucking the kids in for the night, and the next afternoon they watch TV while Don sits in the sofa working. Don later takes the kids home, but Betty and Henry aren’t there. Don has Sally use her key to let them all in. Don sits and absentmindedly watches a football game when Betty and Henry walk in almost two hours later. Don asks when they’re moving out, and Betty says that she doesn’t know, that she hasn’t found a good home for the kids yet. Don tells her to either move out or start paying rent. When he suggests that Henry buy the home from him, Henry says that this is all just temporary. Don says that they all think this is temporary and leaves. Henry tries to calm Betty down by saying that Don is right, and that she’s not even looking for a house. Betty says that Don doesn’t get to decide.

Monday morning comes, and we see Don lying down on the sofa of his office again. His secretary buzzes, saying that Peggy is here to see him. She walks in, smiling, with a ham and says that Sugarberry sent one for everyone this time. The two talk about how close SCDP came to getting “fired”, and how it all worked out in the end. Peggy admits that she should have told Don about the stunt. As she goes to leave, Don says he didn’t know she had a fiancee. Peggy says that she doesn’t, that she only brought him along so Don wouldn’t embarrass her, and that she was “thinking ahead”. Don tells her that she needs to think about the agency’s image. Peggy says that the stunt is, as far as anyone knows, a secret, so their image is exactly where Don left it. Don tells her that he doesn’t need her in the Jantzen presentation. Peggy says he’s being spiteful, but Don says that he doesn’t want a girl in the room. On her way out, Peggy turns back to Don and says that they’re all there because of him, and all everyone wants to do is please him.

Back at his mom’s (?)  house, Henry helps her take the extra leaves out of the dining room table. She accuses Sally of ruining Thanksgiving. Henry apologizes that a “little girl ruined her holiday”. She tells Henry that she knows what she sees in Betty, and he could have gotten that without marrying her. She then calls Betty a “silly woman” and says she doesn’t know how Henry could live in “[Don’s] dirt”.

At the office, Don pitches his idea to Jantzen. Murray and Bob look up at Don like he’s a rock star as he starts his pitch. But when they see the mock-up of the ad, they’re deeply disappointed:


They say that the add is “too suggestive” and that their swimwear is for “modest people”. Don says that modest people like to be stimulated too, and that this ad will make their competitors seem crude in comparison. Bob reiterates that Jantzen is a “wholesome” company.

Don cuts him off and says that he knows what they’re looking for. He describes an innocuous ad with a couple of girls and a beach ball, and a little girl building a sand castle in the foreground. When the two men nod their heads, Don says that Jantzen’s competitors will continue to beat them because Jantzen is scared of the very skin the company’s own two piece was designed to show off. Bob says that it’s “somehow dirtier” that Don’s ad doesn’t show anything at all. Don tells him they need to decide what kind of company they want to be: “comfortable and dead, or risky, and possibly rich”. Murray says they do know that they don’t want that ad. Don turns his back on them and leaves the room.

Roger follows him out of the room and begs him to calm down. He says that Pete will calm down the Jantzen guys. Don looks confused, then walks back to the office and (loudly and angrily) orders the Jantzen people out of the office. He then tells his secretary to get Bert’s man at the Wall Street Journal on the phone. He walks into his office and slams the door as the confused Jantzen reps leave.

The episode closes with Don sitting with the WSJ reporter in a restaurant. Instead of being aloof and secretive, Don colorfully starts telling him the story of how SCDP was born.


Advertising Age is the premiere news publication about the advertising industry. Started as a newspaper in Chicago in 1930, today’s magazine is owned by a Detroit-based company. The magazine’s editorial board still resides in New York City.

– The reporter’s name was Jack Hammond.

– Any idea if Roger’s “one quick pop, Louise” line to Pete was a reference to anything? I googled the phrase, and only got hits to this episode.

– “Jantzen” was originally just one of many brand names of the Portland Knitting Company. The company’s founders, John A. Zehntbauer and Carl Jantzen, were members of the Portland Rowing Club, and in 1913 they were asked to come up with a bathing suit appropriate for the chilly waters of the area. Their suits became so popular that the company’s other product lines were dropped. The brand name was originally supposed to be “Jan-Zen”, after both founders, but the two simply could not agree on any variation of the name. At the very last minute (with advertising and stationery folks standing around waiting for a name), Zehntbauer simply agreed to “Jantzen”. The company’s famous logo, of a young woman diving, has been virtually unchanged since the 1920s.

– Murry talks about “Y&R” at their first meeting. This is a reference to Young & Rubicam, one of the largest ad agencies in the world. Y&R was purchased by London-based WPP Group in 2000.

– The two reps from Jantzen are Murray and Bob.

– The two “middle sized” agencies Pete mentions in Don’s office are Kenyon & Eckhardt and D’Arcy. Kenyon & Eckhardt was an ad agency based on the east coast which was purchased by Loimar Telepictures (producers of Dallas, Knots Landing and The Waltons) in 1983, and later resold to a midwest ad agency called Bozell and Jacobs. The company was renamed “Bozell Worldwide” in the 1990s, and was acquired by True North, a holding company for Draftfcb, in 1997. Bozell created two especially memorable campaigns: the Pork Council’s “Other White Meat” and the “Got Milk?” ads. D’Arcy was founded as “D’Arcy Advertising Company” in 1906 and became “D’Arcy-MacManus International” in 1971 after a merger and “D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles” after another merger in 1985. The agency was acquired by French-owned Publicis in 2002 and shuttered. Among D’Arcy’s most memorable campaigns were the Coca-Cola Santa Claus, “This Bud’s for you” and “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands”.

– SCDP’s new offices are in the Time-Life Building at 1271 Avenue of the Americas (which native New Yorkers still call “6th Avenue”) in Manhattan.

– After Pete leaves Don’s office, we see Peggy and her new assistant\artist in an office. They say “John” and “Marsha” to each other over and over again. Here’s the song they were referencing:


It’s by Stan Freberg, an American author, recording artist, voiceover artist, comedian, radio personality, puppeteer and advertising executive (whew!). The man’s Wikipedia entry is simply enormous: after starting his career in cartoons, he began making films, television and radio shows and comedy records. Especially relevant to Mad Men is the fact that Freberg introduced comedy and satire into ads, which had previously been a “serious” business. Also of note: many Americans associate the phrase “Just the facts, ma’am” with Dragnet‘s Jack Webb when it was, in fact, a Freberg parody of Dragnet. Webb never uttered the phrase. Lastly, people around during the 1980s probably remember this kid from the Encyclopedia Britannica commercials:

Encyclopaedia Britannica kid

That’s Freberg’s son Donavan in the ad, and the offscreen voice is Stan himself.

– “Sugarberry Hams” is a fake product, which is a bit odd for Mad Men, given that Advertising Age, The Wall Street Journal, Jantzen swimwear, and Glo-Coat floor cleaner featured prominently in the episode, and Don is seen drinking Canadian Club, Roger drinks Stolichnaya and Peggy drinks Jameson.

– Peggy’s new assistant, Joey, says that Don should have the ham, since he’s “probably celebrating Thanksgiving by himself”. This would place this episode around November 26, 1964. Except that a few minutes later Roger talks to Don about the blind date, and says that if it goes well on their Saturday date, he can “stuff her turkey on Thanksgiving”. So this episode begins the week prior to Thanksgiving, November 16-20, 1964.

– “I can use my expense account if I say they’re whores”… BWHAHAHAHAHA!!

-Roger says that Bethany, Don’s blind date, “looks like Virginia Mayo”. Mayo was an American actress whose career began in vaudeville and peaked in the 1940s, especially with her appearance in the 1949 film White Heat, which is regarded as one of the best gangster films of all time. And Anna Camp, who plays Bethany, does look a bit like Mayo:


(photo blatantly stolen from Basket of Kisses)

– Jimmy’s LaGrange was a real restaurant in New York. Located at 151 East 49th Street, the restaurant was famous for its Chicken Kiev, a dish made by pounding a chicken breast, wrapping garlic butter around it and baking or frying it. Not a lot is known about the restaurant these days. This interesting blog post over the New York Times has a reporter track down a bit of the restaurant’s history using both the NYT’s own archives as well as in-person interviews with old timers from the area. It’s worth a read.

-The commercials that come on when Don is shining his shoes are for Liberty Mutual, Dial soap and Don’s ad for Glo-Coat floor cleaner.

– Bethany apparently lives at the Barbizon Hotel for Women. Located in the Upper East Side at 140 East 63rd Street, the hotel opened in 1927 as a “safe refuge” for women who had moved to New York City. For decades, men were not allowed above the ground floor, and were only admitted as paying guests in 1981. After a $40 million renovation in 2002, the hotel was reborn as the Melrose Hotel. Some of the famous women who stayed at the Barbizon include Grace Kelly, Margaret Brown, Sylvia Plath, Liza Minnelli and Candice Bergen.

– Don’s apartment is at Waverly Place and 6th Avenue. This is in Greenwich Village, where the current average listing price is $1,849,656 (according to this page about the property).

– The Daily News is the fifth most popular newspaper in the United States, with an average daily circulation of 632,595. It was also the first U.S. daily newspaper printed in the tabloid format. Note that I’m not talking about the content of the newspaper, but rather the fact that it looks like a book or magazine and not a traditional broadsheet format, which is the most common format in the United States.

GOOF? In Joan’s office, Harry says that ABC will use jai alai to showcase other less popular sports, thus hinting at ABC’s popular Wide World of Sports program. However, Wide World of Sports started in 1961 and was well established by 1964. In fact, in that year, the show covered the Oklahoma Rattlesnake Hunt championships.

– When Roger reads from the article about Don, he mentions “a painting of him rapidly aging”. This is a reference to The Picture of Dorian Gray, a Gothic horror novel by Oscar Wilde, in which the title character sells his soul so that a portrait of him will age instead of himself. Read more about it here.

Essex is a town of around 6,500 people in Middlesex County, Connecticut. Although settled as early as 1648, it wasn’t incorporated into a city until 1852.

– The Griswold Inn is a real place (warning: obnoxious music on load). In fact, it’s one of only two restaurants in Essex, and was founded in 1776.

– When Sally and Bobby visit Don, they watch Sky King on TV. This was a radio show in the 1940s and a TV show in the 1950s about a rancher who used his plane to catch criminals. The show aired as reruns during the time of this Mad Men episode. CBS ran them at noon on Saturdays, so we not only know that it was November 28, 1964, but that it was sometime between noon and 1PM in this scene.

– It seems like the biggest question from the episode was how Don could be watching a football game at almost 10pm on a Saturday. After all, the east coast games had long been completed, and at that time west coast games weren’t televised on the east coast. Well, the Los Angeles Times explains: apparently, the producers wanted Don to be watching that night’s New York Rangers hockey game (for the record, they beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1). But at the last minute the rights deal fell through, so the producers put in audio of a football game instead. It wasn’t supposed to be loud enough to understand, but an error in the mixing led football fans to instantly recognize it.

– Pointless trivia: when you see a football game in the background of most TV shows and movies these days, it’s usually Canadian football, which is much cheaper to license than NFL football but similar enough so that most viewers would assume it’s a college game between two schools unfamiliar to them.

– Just for the record, here’s an actual Jantzen ad from the 1960s. It looks pretty similar to what Don was proposing (and is from around four years earlier):



First of all, I loved seeing Don get his balls back at the end of the episode. It was the kind of moment where a straight white guy like myself makes a fist and pulls it back towards him in that “hell yeah!” gesture. Go back to kicking some ass, Don… it’s what you do best!

Another thought: where did Henry live before he met Betty? My memory is a bit rusty at the moment, but it just seems odd to me that he’d actually live in Don’s house. I liked how he appeared impotent in Don’s bed, however. One wonders if Betty will get sick of Henry and come running back to Don… who just might have a literal replacement for her.

I also liked that Weiner hit on a theme of emptiness and hunger in a week of plenty. Don doesn’t eat, Sally doesn’t eat… And then there’s sexual hunger. Don, in a surprise, doesn’t have a string of mistresses… just a young woman he’s not entirely attracted to and a prostitute who hits him. Interesting.

But it seems like a lot of folks out there weren’t happy with the opener in general. The question I have to ask is.. why? Every season opener of Mad Men (with the exception of the pilot) has been fraught with concern over the direction the show is headed. And, without fail, every time it works out well in the end. I remember reading several “sky is falling” posts at the beginning of the last season.. and look at how well that one turned out!

As always… I can’t wait until next Sunday!

4 Replies to “Mad Men: “Public Relations””

  1. So this is your “not so full blown” recap? ha! Seems very comprehensive to me and it’s great as always. I liked the opener-although I was hoping it wouldn’t be quite so far advanced in the timeline. It would have been interesting to see them working out of a living room for awhile.

  2. heh. Yeah, the “recap” bit got away from me a few times, but overall it’s significantly shorter, and more fun to read, IMHO.

    Glad to see ya back, Steve! 🙂

  3. Jim,

    Just got caught up on Mad Men this summer, and was sure to read your blog posts after every episode I watched. They were perfect because they had no spoilers like some message boards did and what not. Will continue to read every week!

    I love your “my thoughts” section the most, because you pick up on things that I don’t. Please keep them coming!


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