Don’s Less Than Rousing Speech

 Posted by on October 7, 2010 at 12:00 pm  Characters, Season 4
Oct 072010

Don Draper is known for pitching well in times of need. But when SCDP is on the brink of destruction, and they call all the employees in to let them know Lucky Strike is gone, what does Don say? He says:

Now, we’ve had a pretty good year. We’ve gained more accounts than we’ve lost, a lot more, because our work is thoughtful, and effective. Even Lucky Strike said so. Which means that nothing should change. Nothing will change. We’re going to push ourselves, shoulder to shoulder, and we’re going to overcome this, and we’re going to succeed ten fold, and it will be exhilarating.

That’s it. And that’s a heck of a lot of  bootstrapping going on there. Suck it up. Don’t complain. It’s Don under pressure. But he’s not delivering the usual Don Draper magic. The employees of SCDP need to be inspired, not intimidated. He orders them that it will be exhilarating. He doesn’t tell them how it will or can be.

Peggy admiringly describes the missing element in a subsequent scene:

“…Don always has these little examples at the end, to explain to the client how big the idea is. And they’re always kind of poetic.”

Don is at his best when he uses insight instead of force. He resorts to force when he’s at his lowest, when he doesn’t know what to do. Whether it’s with his marriage, his estranged brother, or at his job. It’s one step above packing his suitcase. This is a sign that he’s trying to hold on to his status quo so hard, he doesn’t see the error of his ways.

I think he should have said more. I don’t know what he should have said, but he needed to garner more than just the anxious, tepid air in that SCDP office.  What do you think he should have, or could have said to rouse SCDP and give them the confidence they need to succeed?


  43 Responses to “Don’s Less Than Rousing Speech”

  1. That speech reminded me of the one he gave the kids when they told them about the divorce.

  2. I didn’t find it quite as weak as you did but I see the points. At least the speech got everyone with their heads down working, paying attention to their work.

    Don was right that the firm’s work–at least that of the creative department–is thoughtful and effective. Have we ever seen a plotline in Mad Men in which the ads didn’t work? I can’t recall one. We’ve seen countless ones in which they did work and then the firm still loses some of those clients.

    Weiner and staff are just so great in showing the myriad of ways people react to bad news.

  3. Ann – Patio is one that didn’t work.

  4. I didn’t find it as weak either. I thought it was ok. I guess since I knew how Roger handled it, I had focused on that then what Don said. I thought he made his point thoguh.

  5. I probably would have found it more encouraging if I, as an observer beyond the fourth wall, hadn’t seen the grim partners’ meetings that led up to it.

  6. I, too, thought it was somewhat flat. But maybe that’s because his nervousness was showing. The serious look on his face couldn’t cover the anxiety in his eyes and body. They were all acting like someone had died. I think the speech was ok as pep talk but his body language betrayed it. When he said it was going to be exhilarating – it was obvious he had difficulty believing in it himself.

    Remember his pitch for Lucky Strike? I still remember the sparkle in his eyes.

  7. “…at a certain point, seduction is over and force is being requested.”
    “We’re going to push ourselves, shoulder to shoulder, and we’re going to overcome this, and we’re going to succeed ten fold, and it will be exhilarating.”

    Meh, I don’t know what point I was trying to make. But I felt this speech was reminiscent of the one he gave about the future and American Airlines. “Let’s pretend we know what 1963 looks like.” Of course we know how that worked out. Let’s just say this is probably a good indication that Don Draper will be working for McCann Ericson or some other firm in 1966. But at least we can say for sure that he’ll probably never be able to moonlight at the Psychic Friends Network.

  8. #1 Melissa,

    I very much admire your comment. And agree with it.

    It’s a moment-of-loss speech, a back-foot speech. This is Don Draper, caught out at a moment of relative weakness.

    I know Don says that fear stimulates his imagination, but what we see in that tight camera shot on his face before the meeting begins is terror. This is more than a few degrees above the amount of fear our man likes to splash around in. He’s really at sea here.

    Our more familiar Don Draper — challenged, definitely challenged, but intrigued, with a possible new love interest in play — probably could have come up with a great phoenix-from-the-ashes speech. Or at least an allusion to the firm’s inception story, a rousing let’s-go-out-there-and-steal-what-we-can’t-sell kind of thing.

    But that wasn’t the man who showed up to that meeting.

    I hope he shows up in time to save the firm. As we’re all beginning to see, Don’s really the only person who can tell the story of the firm to those who need to hear it: clients, potential clients, and the workers themselves.

    (BTW, great post, Margarita!)

  9. Nice post. Here’s where Don fell flat.

    He didn’t seem to have given much thought to what he was going to say, and he didn’t believe what he was saying. He wasn’t looking people in the eye and exhorting them to follow him through fire. He was just making it up. The audio retrack didn’t help matters. It sounded kind of choppy, like MW took the best takes and edited them together.

    Also, who were those people? We were seeing a lot of extras — and even the man from accounting — that we’d never seen before. As the audience, we didn’t know them so we weren’t feeling their anxiety.

  10. Churchill rousing, or Hitler rousing?
    Lane Price, The Color Blue

  11. er, Pryce

  12. Don Draper sees the handwriting on the wall. He knows that Sterling Cooper having Lucky Strike enabled Don Draper and his creative department to excell. He seems desparate when he demands Roger fly to Raleigh/ Durham. Roger seems resigned to his fate. Don, I think, knows SCDP is doomed,unless something radical happens. Don will have his suitcase packed; he has been down this road before.

  13. I don’t think the speech is that bad. It calls for team spirit, compliments past efforts, gives a little inspiration, predicts success and best of all implies there might be a celebration at the end. (Let’s party!)
    On the fly, I’d give Don gets a B.
    It could have included everyone cheering.

  14. Can you tell I worked all night?
    give was supposed to be changed to say.

  15. Well, to compare the small speech to his employees to the Pilot pitch to Lucky Strike would be unfair. To address an external party, while maintaining just the right amount of mystery is Don’s territory. He embellishes the product with a theme, and it works. But only as a pitch. The internal workings of the firm never interested him, and in fact from the several instances we’ve seen on camera, he would either wander in at the last minute or stand by the rest of the partners, saying nothing. But mainly, we’ve seen Don say “It’s going to be fine/all right/okay” to people so many times that maybe he’s just tired of it. Like he said in Public Relations, “Who gives a crap what I say anyway? My work speaks for me.”

  16. I miss Lane. I miss him terribly.

    (Thanks, Coop)

  17. “…and it will be exhilarating!” sounded so much like a parent telling kids “it WILL be a GOOD TIME!”. The speech was said in much the same tone…It fell kind of flat for me, I would not have been invigorated as much as getting my resume updated to make sure that I would have a job.

  18. I had assumed that the speech was less than thrilling was written to be just that. When properly inspired , Don can make grown men cry and flee the room, but when uninspired, can still pull out a decent go-team rally. The fact that there was no “I’m not gonna tell you about Jesus” moment was telling about his barely concealed terror, and important to us as the audience to foster a sense of discomfort. He was trying to convince himself as much if not more than the staff.

  19. Not Knute Rockne, but also not John Blutofsky [Belushi] in Animal House, inspiring the Delta brothers on with his speech about the Germans bombing Pearl Harbor. “Don’t interrupt, he’s on a roll . . . “

  20. Blutarski. Sorry, I’m a geek.

  21. I thought the speech was ok, but the use of the word “tenfold” annoyed me for some reason. Maybe because it’s not the kind of thing I ever hear someone say IRL.

    Brenda (#9), I think there are a lot of new people now. I miss Kurt & Smitty looking at each other during announcements and Smitty saying, “Oh, come on!” when they heard that their vacation day was being taken away. (“Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency”)

    and Paul Kinsey, too.

  22. I liked how Cooper waited until his brief comments were handed to him by Joan on a typed up piece of paper before he started the meeting by speaking them to the assembled company. Very old school, very cool. His body language (the waiting and reading from a prepared text, especially) expressed both the seriousness of the event and the seriousness with which the partners were taking its implications.

    Don is after all the world’s best cub scout leader, inventing reasons we all need to hike over the next hill and be cheerful about it. I thought his speech reinforced Cooper’s message by translating “this is a serious but manageable event” into Don-speak. His key messages: 1) we are all in this together (no one is laid off right away), 2) we have been succeeding in our work up to now (your work has been appreciated), 3) we will succeed in getting through this cash flow crunch and hit to our reputation by continuing to do good work (lets try to do our best work for the next few months). For people like Danny, the message of the speech is “now would be a good time to come up with some great ideas.” I thought Don reduced his speech to one word when he told Peggy later in his office vis-a-vis the Playtex pitch meeting, “Succeed!”

    The cub scouts have a rickety rope bridge to get across. Don is not happy about it. He wasn’t planning on going over it. It wasn’t on his map. But the scout troop has to get over this bridge or there will be no marshmallows and s’mores around a fireside after dinner on the other side of the next hill.

  23. When properly inspired , Don can make grown men cry and flee the room

    Have we ever seen this? “The Wheel?” I myself see Don as a seriously limited person, who is carried by his own confidence and an amazing quiet charisma when he is on. But not a public speaker.

    Maybe Roger has a purpose after all.

  24. Margarita,

    As Don spoke, I was underwhelmed, and I thank you for bringing this up.

    Don is modeling the difference between a “manager” and a “leader”… “compliance” rather than “inspiration”. Don was looking backward: “our work is thoughtful… Even Lucky Strike said so” when those he is responsible for needed assuring leadership and inspired vision.

    Don could have defined Lucky Strike as the past and hinted that SCDP leadership was planning to phase them out to focus on high growth future of the firm: Consumer electronics, entertainment and leisure travel.

    He could have made that sale, easily. After all, in “The Wheel”, he sold the wisdom of a non-existent Greek Guy, Teddy, as he defined nostalgia and the Carousel as a time machine.

  25. Real trouble calls for real talk, not movie talk. We know what Henry V said the morning of Agincourt, and there wasn’t anything in it about Crispin Crispian. You won’t see this in a movie, although I’m sure Jean Reno could pull it off.

    “On 2 November 1812, at the start of the retreat from Moscow, Marshal François Joseph Lefèbvre, Duc de Danzig, addressed the Imperial Guard.

    He first pointed to the north, the south, the east and west as he said:

    ‘Grenadiers and Chasseurs, the Cossacks are there, there, there and there. If you do not follow me, you are f*cked.

    I am no ordinary general, and it is with good reason that in the Army of the Moselle I was known as the Eternal Father.

    Grenadiers and Chasseurs, I say to you again: if you do not stay with me you are f*cked.

    And anyway, I don’t care a f*ck. You can all go and f*ck yourselves.’

    (Alexandre Bellot de Kergorre, Un Commissaire des Guerres sous le Premiere Empire. Journal de Bellot de Kergorre” Paris 1899 p. 73-74)

    Best. Speech. Ever.

  26. LOL – I’d be looking for a hole in the ground to hide in, but then again you’d never find me in any army.

  27. I’ve heard these speeches at work, typically right before the layoffs start. Nobody buys it in real life, and I didn’t buy it on MM. Don didn’t even buy it.

  28. The impending doom on SCDP was heigthen “tenfold” because the man who should have given the speech wasnt there – Lane (great work MW)

    Don’s creative, and as others have noted, his best is kept for the boardroom (and bedrooms) of this world. He is not at his best either, so he lacked the ability to conjure something from his bag of tricks.

    Having said that, I think the speech was solid enough for the troops to hear (and for Danny later to be ignored – great touch – LOL) with Don and team later in the bunker, blackboard setup, with some serious schmoozing on the agenda.

    Ironically, (given his war record) I think Don will fight for SCDP for as long as he can but it maybe a lost cause, however, I reckon MW is going to give us cliffhanger that may swing in SCDP’s favour!! Lets hope so

  29. Interesting, Steve.

    But of the two versions, I really think I prefer anything that throws in words like “The fewer men, the greater share of honour” and “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”.

    Depends on the task at hand, of course: keeping an ad firm alive, or winning a war? You choose your battle when you choose your words.


  30. “No better friend, no worse enemy”

    Central Command Commanding General Jim Mattis said it best on the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom. From the Commanding General Message to all hands:

    “For the mission’s sake, our country’s sake, and the sake of the men who carried the Division’s colors in past battles—who fought for life and never lost their nerve—carry out you mission and keep your honor clean. Demonstrate to the world that there is ’No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy’ than a U.S. Marine.

    J.N. Mattis

    Major General, US Marines


    Full text here -


  31. #30
    Yours was the last post I read this morning. And sentimental me, I burst out in tears.

  32. Fear stimulates his mediocrity.

    Either Don is on the backside of his advertising career or its time for a change. I dunno, how about head of Paramount Studios? If he bolts for the coast now, within five years he could be running the studio and giving the green light to “Mario Puzo’s The Godfather”.

  33. Annie:

    What if Lane comes back with the BP account? Or maybe he just raids all of the accounts of his former agency?

    Given the treatment by his father, we may be lucky to have him come back at all. A decent man in a rotten world.


  34. For my money, nobody did it better than FDR.

  35. I liked how Cooper waited until his brief comments were handed to him by Joan on a typed up piece of paper before he started the meeting by speaking them to the assembled company. Very old school, very cool.

    Actually, if you go look through the scrapbook on the AMC site, the note Joan handed him was handwritten by her. I got the feeling that Burt was waiting for and then reading American Tobacco’s statement, and if you go back and listen to what he actually said, it sounds more like it’s coming from AT, not Burt. What I thought was kind of odd was him introducing Don by title, as if the people in the room wouldn’t know who he was.

    Don’s delivery of his speech reminded me exactly of when he was asking Harry about the Beatle’s tickets and he said “I’m not worried. I’m not worried at ALL.”

  36. # 29 Anne B

    This is what Henry actually said. The spelling is modern.

    He heard the nearby church ringing the dawn bells that call the faithful to prayer, at the same hour throughout the Christian world, and said

    “Now is good time, for all England prays for us! St. George, thine help!”

    (Then he did the thing you see in the Branagh movie, kneeling and kissing the ground. It was said to be a symbol for the soldier’s “communion”: they were about to enter battle, a profane thing, and were not worthy to take the real host. Some men even swallowed a piece of earth, like Fluellen. But it may have been a pre-Christian survival, a vow to die on this ground rather than surrender or retreat.)

    Then he said
    “Fellows! Let us go on our journey!”

    (Then did the thing they never show in the movies, or in the play. He led the attack. The English army attacked the French, moving forward to bowshot and barraging the the French lines with arrows. They didn’t wait for the French to charge them; they struck first and sent the enemy into disarray. Are you listening, Don?)

  37. I think that poster of season 4, showing Don all alone in an empty office, might be a foreshadow what is to come.

    I’m afraid that Pete will leave for the other firm; Roger will pack it in; Bert will fully retire; Lane will stay in England; and the rest will scatter like rats in a sinking boat.

    Which would leave Don, all alone, in an empty office.

    Hope I’m wrong. We had enough change from the end of last season to the start of this one.

  38. #22 love the cub scout metaphor.

    #28, PJ, smart catch that Lane should have been the one to give the (or a) speech and bully for MW having him out of the picture, and here-here to #29 AnneB, “you choose your battle when you choose your words.”

    That’s it! Don’s words were not inspiring enough for 2010 (or the movies), but in 1965, they might have seemed downright terrific.

    But #32 Frank Bullitt is right: Fear stimulates Don’s mediocrity. hahahaha. A meaty challenge, however, usually makes him rise to the occasion. But this season has been hard on him.

    And on viewers, for my money. But it has also been the best.

  39. Melissa:

    YES. “Warm courage” and all, that man knew how to raise this nation to its feet. A man who couldn’t stand on his own: he could do that.

    One of my favorite quotes of FDR’s is on the wall of his monument in D.C, his quotation about war. It’s not just the words themselves, it’s how the place presents them: the words “I hate war” are largest of all.

    The toughest times don’t necessarily call for physically tough leaders. They call for people who have been in enough places to know what good looks like, what bad looks like, and know how to describe the transitions from one state to another. This is something more than either a rhetorical gift or mental agility.

    I would call it, for lack of a better phrase, the human touch.

  40. #38: it’s an art.

  41. #33, Frank!

    Mi amigo! 🙂

    To answer your question, re Lane and the Nightmare Scenario (Lane Pryce returns from London with BP staining his vest pocket):

    Ooohhhh duuuude, he better not. And here’s why: The Sea Gem. Offshore oil rig, about to go down in what I believe is the North Sea, near the end of 1965. Thirteen people aboard the rig will die. No accounting for how much offshore life follow (I’m fairly sure the records for this kind of thing were not as careful at the time).

    Sound familiar, people of the present?

    How I know this: I HATE BP. My perspective on the corporation is unlikely to change … until they do the only possible decent thing, after what they did to the Gulf Region of my fair nation, which would be die.

    We know well that which we loathe. Hence, the Sea Gem.

    Y’all are welcome.

  42. Ms Moir,

    Your reaction moved me.

    Around Memorial Day 2010, we discussed the one of the heroes of OIF, Private First Class Chance Phelps… perhaps the epilogue to the stirring words of “the Warrior Monk”, General Mattis.

    By the forbearance of the Lipp sisters, I offer a short synopses and a link to the homecoming story of USMC LCpl Chance Phelps.

    Then PFC Chance Phelps was KIA during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004. His escort officer, Lt. Col Strobl, wrote powerfully about Chance’s journey home to Wyoming, and the impact the journey had on everyone who witnessed it.

    The care taken by the Corps for their own and the honors rendered by ordinary Americans at every step of the journey home tell me that words like honor, commitment and valor mean something.

    Chance is home now, holding the high ground outside of his small hometown in Wyoming. The full story of his final journey may be found here:


  43. Thanks, Hawk. Any time of year, that’s always such a good story.

    This is still a great place to call home.

    P.S., Lt. Col Strobl’s story, in the first place I read it:,0,6934286.story

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