Mad Men is finally back. After a year or so of patiently enduring many bourbon-less nights filled with smoke-free air, our favorite vicarious vices return, along with the seemingly elegant yet despicable characters who perform them. This season, number six, we’re poised to get to know Don Draper even better, after sitting through several recent episodes that lacked flashbacks or insight into the past of the man behind the Madison Ave machine. There are few things we can be sure of when it comes to Mr. Draper, but one thing we’re certain of is this: the man can make one hell of a pitch. So, in today’s even faster-paced world of marketing and more rapidly-changing consumer culture, what would Don do with routers and switches? How would he market such items in the concise, poetic manner we, along with the show’s clients, so often wait with bated breath to hear?
It can be tricky to speak eloquently and nostalgically of something as dry and technical as IT hardware (believe me, it’s one of my daily hurdles). How would Don present a Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance in a way that emotionally resonates with its intended audience? Better yet, how would he promote the modern secondary market and companies like planIT HARDWARE?
I remember the episode with the slide projector—the Kodak Carousel—where Draper gives his presentation on what is supposed to be called “The Wheel.” This is a new piece of technology at the time, and while a large advancement, its function is quite simple—much like the IT hardware of today. He’s having the damndest time generating ideas for the pitch he’s to give on it, too busy focusing on the very real, difficult things going on all around him to be concerned with a piece of gadgetry. At the very end of the episode, the first season’s finale, he delivers his presentation along with what are the most powerful 3 minutes of probably the entire series to-date, and some of the best television ever:
Technology can connect us, or separate us. Don seems to think, at least in this episode, that the technological innovation of that time, the Carousel slide projector, is best marketed with a hefty dash of nostalgia: we seem to make technology with the express purpose of moving forward, but we often end up utilizing it the most to go backward, to save endless files and photos and songs so that we may willfully and flawlessly recall them to memory—and not only to remember them, but to experience them all over again.
The same can be said for the innovations of today. Despite its sophisticated abilities, the most-used hardware feature of an iPhone is its camera; its most-utilized and accessed app would likely be Instagram. No matter how complicatedly or complexly a Cisco switch may be constructed, no matter how many intricacies occur within those tiny modules inside, the functions are always very simple. These beefy pieces of machinery are all so that we can connect with each other faster and more efficiently…an entire room of server chassis and all we’re doing is emailing, making calls using VoIP, sharing documents, and trying to save it all. We save it all so that we can look back and remind ourselves of our accomplishments, build further upon what has already been built, hope that the past will inspire our future. It’s like Don said in the clip above: “This device isn’t a spaceship…it’s a time machine.”