Mad Men

'Mad Men' Recap: MadTech!

'We Need to Invest in a Computer'

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Jim Cutler (Harry Hamlin), Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) and Bertram Cooper (Robert Morse) in episode 3.
Jim Cutler (Harry Hamlin), Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) and Bertram Cooper (Robert Morse) in episode 3. Credit: Michael Yarish/AMC

Jim Cutler, godfather of ad tech.

Think about it. He sort of already has the look. Keep the suit jacket and the glasses, put some jeans on him, maybe untuck the shirt, hurtle him into the future and you've got a brand-new logo for Lumascapes. Even three decades before algorithms began to take over Madison Ave., Cutler had the lingo.

"We need to invest in a computer, period," he tells his fellow partners at Sterling Cooper & Partners, at no less a crucial moment than when they're deciding whether to bring Don back into the fold. "Not in creative hijinks."

Cutler raises an interesting question. Which is more valuable to the firm? An ill-behaved creative director or one of the new-fangled contraptions that a rival agency has? It's triggered by a visit from the Koss client, who has seen a New York Times story about the computer that Grey has. Called into a meeting to put out the fire, Harry Crane tells two lies: first, that SC&P has a computer of its own and, second, that they've got a hot new program that processes both local and national media data.

Time for a reality interlude: There was a Grey computer, mentioned in a 1970 article detailing the state of computing in the ad world. Computers began moving into agencies early in the early 1960s, with as many as 25 agencies boasting them by 1968. Grey and Ted Bates were among the early adopters and they created subsidiaries that charged companies for their use. Grey's was called COM-STEP; Bates's was the Cybics Computer Corporation.

The other idea being kicked around at that time was a computer co-op center that could be used by agencies who contributed to the funding, but that apparently died after the 4A's got Arthur Andersen to do a feasibility study. A key finding was that $500,000 was needed to cover the start-up and maintenance for a couple years. That's $3.2 million in 2014 dollars.

So ad folk certainly knew that the mainframes found in more and more of their clients' offices were destined to make their way into agencies. That said, does the thought of sacrificing the role of the man who Roger Sterling regards a creative "genius" so they can have a computer seem a bit premature? Yes, but it is no less interesting, especially when considered alongside all the talk about Crane's media department. Remember that the idea of scaling media buying was one of the big reasons for the coming waves of agency consolidation and unbundling. Another was the hope of sharing back-office services, like, say, a really expensive computer.

It's stuff like this that makes me think this show will end with another SC&P sale and that somehow Harry Crane will end up looking better than everyone. But before we get to that, Don gets one more shot at redemption at the agency he helped make.

After weighing what would have been a tempting offer from the very hot Wells Rich Greene and spending a very disruptive day at the agency, Don agrees to a list of conditions. It's also a very informative day as we see Peggy's Ted-driven antipathy to him. We see the surprising depths of Joan's coldness, a somewhat mystifying twist on a once-solid friendship. Then there's Sterling's mix of nostalgia and pragmatism as he warns the partners about the idea of "Mary Wells sitting in Don's lap next time you go into presentation." We already know what Cutler thinks. On the flipside, we see a creative department eager for some leadership after getting only one Clio nomination -- the horror!

Don being back means no drinking in the office, no winging it in meetings and no alone time with clients. He now has to report to the "adequate" Lou Avery, surely setting off a new round of office political machinations. And perhaps most symbolically, he's told to take the office where Lane Pryce hanged himself, a macabre flourish that will do nothing to quiet the theories about Don's death.

Don agrees to all this instantly, uttering a single "OK" before Jimi Hendrix's "If 6 Was 9" plays over the credits. You have to imagine the ease with which he accepts this neutering has something to do with a desire to retake what he's built. It also probably doesn't hurt that the whole Megan experiment is looking increasingly like a crash-and-burn. Don finally comes clean to her about his, uh, job situation over the previous few months. She's not happy, but it's still not quite over ....

When you add it all up, Don doesn't exactly have a lot going on, placing him in the same lonely, existential boat as his ex, Betty, who makes her first appearance this season. A conversation with an old friend leads her to reflect on her relationship with her kids, which leads her to accompany Bobby on a field trip to a farm. There Betty gamely drinks from a pail of fresh milk. It's a nice moment, derailed when Bobby gives away her sandwich, triggering some pretty classic Betty sulking. "It was a perfect day and he ruined it," she later tells hubby Henry.

Like a lot of Betty moments post-divorce, it doesn't give you a lot to latch on to. At a bare minimum, it suggests that, like Don's been doing after his Hershey's meltdown, she's taking stock of her relationships, wondering if her kids love her.


There's a mention of David Ogilvy frowning on awards, despite chairing the Clio judging. Ogilvy's specific problem was awarding creativity for creativity's sake rather than sales. There's even an Advertising Research Foundation award named for him.


Mt. Dew gets a call-out that's worth noting. Back in 1969, the brand changed its tagline from, um, "Ya-hoo, Mountain Dew! It'll Tickle Yore Innards!" to "Get That Barefoot Feeling Drinking Mountain Dew."

Here's a spot, possibly from the 1970s.