Crash test dummy

Eaon Pritchard
By Eaon Pritchard | 20 October 2021
Eaon Pritchard

Watching MadMen for the umpteenth time, something struck me during The Crash, the eighth episode in season 6.

It’s the one where account man Ken Cosgrove firstly gets injured in a car crash with the drunken Chevrolet executives he’s courting as a client.

Later one of the Chevy execs shoots Ken in the face with a shotgun when they are out on a hunting jolly, and Ken ends up losing an eye.

Shortly after he decides it might be a good idea to stop working for the Chevy account.

(And kids today complain about burn out and Zoom fatigue… lightweights.)

Despite Ken’s commitment to client service at almost all costs, so far Chevy doesn't like any of the ideas Sterling Cooper has presented.

In a last-ditch attempt to nail it, Don Draper calls a weekender.

On the insistence of Jim Cutler – a former partner at a rival firm, now a senior partner at the merged Sterling Cooper and Partners - a Dr Feelgood is called in to get everybody sorted out for the weekend’s work.

Cutler was the C part of the CGC team that had been chasing Chevrolet but needed to merge with Sterling Cooper to get the ‘scale’ needed for either shop to be in with a shout.

Cutler’s doctor, with his proprietary ‘energy serum’ promises to give the team up to three days of uninterrupted creative focus, energy, and confidence.

The ‘serum’ is of course top of the range amphetamine sulphate.
The good gear.

Cut only with the added placebo/distraction of a dash of Vitamin B.

So, the first thing that struck me was a flash of nostalgia for advertising in the 90’s. The second thing was this.

I wonder if there’s a lesson to be learned from Jim Cutler’s Dr Feelgood that might have improved uptake of COVID vaccinations. And how involving a few decent ad people in how jabs were communicated in the beginning might have got us all there a bit quicker.

A quick bit of Googling and several separate sources seem to agree that somewhere in the region of 30% of people in Australia are either outright anti-vaxxers or at least vax hesitant.

Fewer than 30% get a regular flu jab.

Given that we are told that upwards of 80% fully vaxxed is necessary, that should have been the first comms problem outlined. We are looking at a gap of at least 10%.

If Sterling Cooper staff were lined up and told they were about to be injected with A Grade Speed and be up twitching and chewing their face off for two days, they might not have been that keen. Not all of them, anyway.

But ask them to take a Vitamin B energy serum and it’s a different story.

Given there’s at least three perfectly acceptable vaccines out there for COVID, the governments and one manufacturer could have conspired to reframe one variant as a ‘supplement’ or a ‘anti-viral vitamin boost’.

The prime candidate would have been Pfizer. Men know that brand name for one thing. So, an anti-viral ‘supplement’ with bonus blue pill placebo effects – FOR FREE – would have had some of the older guys kicking the doors down to get at it.

Or perhaps frame one of them as some sort of metaphysical woo-woo Gwyneth Paltrow style wellness nonsense. Chuck in some crystals and one of her candles. The mystical brigade tends to be susceptible to conspiratorial thinking and make up a number of the anti-vax lobby.

For the 30% vaxx-sceptics – give them an option that’s not called a ‘vaccine’.

This is the classic ‘reframing’ tactic. The exact same product shown in a different way can have very different effect.

Equivalent information can be more-or-less attractive depending on what features are highlighted or how they are described.

10% off a $10 thing is more appealing than $1 off.

As the weekend unfolds in Sterling Cooper, the second car crash happens.

The entire agency is speeding off their tits for the entire 48 hours yet fail to come up with even half a coherent idea. Even the word Chevy was spelled wrong in the presentation.

One could be unkind and wonder what has been passed around in our various state parliaments for the last 18 months among our crash test dummies.

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