Don Draper gets his mojo back: Lessons for NB

I don’t know if you watched the Mad Men series but I thought the finale was quite interesting. From the very first episode we were led to believe that the life of a mad man was intense but ultimately terminal as the show opening every week shows the silhouette of (presumably Don) someone falling to their demise off a building as advertising images flicker in the background.

The finale pushed us in that direction. Near the very end we see Don calling Peggy from a payphone and decrying his life and the meaninglessness of it all. He had gone to a hippy commune to find himself but it only got worse. Peggy suggests he shouldn’t be alone right now and worries about Don’s life.

She tells him there is a lot to live for – doesn’t he want to come back and work on Coca-Cola? For a moment we are led to believe that not only is that idea not appealing to Don – in fact it is that idea that has led him to his demise.

Then in the second to last scene, Don is doing yoga with the hippies and the camera slowly zooms in on Don’s face. We see a big grin appear on his face and, then, the scene cuts to the most famous Coca-Cola advertising campaign of all time – “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” with a bunch of hippies holding bottles of the fizzy drink talking about peace, love and nirvana.

My wife thought it was a strange ending but I thought it was perfect.

Don’s real problem was never the women, drink, etc. In the context of the show, it was that he felt he lost his mojo. In the depths of despair and in the company of those strange hippies he got his creative inspiration back – another carousel moment – the x factor that made him the king of Madison Avenue. We are left to conclude – deliciously – that he goes back to McCann and creates the most successful and famous advertising campaign of all time.

I might be wrong about this and I purposely didn’t Google it because I want to believe that was the point. How do you generate creativity – inspiration – innovation – moments of great genius? Whether it is an inventor, artist or mad man – what is the alchemy that leads to breakthrough moments?

We need this in New Brunswick. That are so many good people and organizations doing interesting things but when we look at the big picture we are in need of a breakthrough – a Sputnik moment – a Don Draper Coca-Cola moment.

Our economy is flat. Our population is stagnant. If the demographic trend continues on its current course we are destined to lurch from crisis to crisis over the next 25-30 years.

We need to significantly boost our population – particularly the under 40 population to balance our demographic situation. We need to boost our GDP at least at a moderate level to ensure we can afford the public services and infrastructure we care about. We need more innovation, more high growth entrepreneurs – more optimism.

In 2006 the Self-Sufficiency agenda warned that we must increase our population by 100,000 by 2026. Nearly 10 years later there is less appetite for population growth now than back then. Economists and economic policy gurus were warning back then about the weak GDP growth and its long term impacts on our fiscal situation. Now we are in our seventh year with zero real GDP growth and while there continues to be some voices warning about this – there isn’t much urgency about it.

I have been writing and thinking about this stuff for years and I feel a little Draper-esque (without the side effects). I can’t seem to formulate that single, unifying concept that will bring light bulbs over the heads of those that need a light bulb moment.

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One Response to Don Draper gets his mojo back: Lessons for NB

  1. It would be so great if we could have that Don Draper Coca-Cola moment here in NB but I fear we are unlikely to get it. I think real change will take time and happen slowly. I do feel we are starting to head in the right direction: we’ve got some young leadership with (perhaps?) some fresh new ideas on growing our economy. People want to be in the Maritimes, we just need to give them a way to sustain themselves while they’re here (i.e. a job). I’m trying to do my part in spreading the positivity, and I see you are trying to do the same. We just need a few more people who would like to buy the Maritimes a Coke so we can really get this ball moving…

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