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How the TV show Mad Men can help you “sell” your message

December 4, 2012

If you need to spread your message and persuade people – then the TV show Mad Men can help you “sell” your message to  your audience.

I know “selling” can have a negative and pushy image – but instead of pushing “stuff” on people, think connecting what people need and want  and with what you can offer.

Go broader – think beyond your  physical “product”. What else are you selling? What other human needs and wants are you satisfying. Think Mad Men!

The show is about advertising in the early 1960s  and has so many valuable communication lessons.

This week I was helping some clients who work with the beauty and fashion industry “broaden” the appeal of their message.

They asked how to make their message more exciting because “after all, it’s just make-up”.

It was funny – it was as if I started channeling all these scenes from Mad Men – especially the episodes about Lipstick and the slide projector The Carousel. I wasn’t planning to talk about Mad Men – but as I am such a massive fan of the show, the it’s just make-up comment made me  “click” into remembering episodes I hadn’t seen for years.

“It’s not just make-up” I said “Think broader – what else you are selling beyond the physical product?”


With lipstick – you’re not just selling the physical product – you’re selling much more – individuality, the freedom to choose our own style, and as Mad Men pitched – your ability to “mark your man”.

Now with the slide projector – you’re not just selling a piece of equipment. You are selling memories and nostalgia.

Here are the beautiful lines from the Mad Men about how you should think about what else you are selling – the greater things we crave beyond the physical item – How does a slide projector translate into memories, nostalgia and love?

It’s delicate, but potent…
Teddy told me that in Greek, nostalgia literally means the pain from an old wound.
It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone.
This device… isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine.
It goes backwards, forwards.
It takes us to a place where we ache to go again.
It’s not called the Wheel.
It’s called the Carousel.
It lets us travel the way a child travels.
Around and around and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved.”  

Amazing script – and combined with the images and music it’s really moving. I strongly recommend you go to youtube and find the clip by searching for Mad Men Carousel.

Now, here’s another example – a real ad!

This is a real ad from around the Mad Men period   These days, we take for granted many items like cling wrap (or whatever the US equivalent was called)  – but at the time these inventions  were new and “fresh” and made life much easier.

Here’s an exercise for you.

Take a look at the ad and ask yourself  – what else are they selling besides the physical product – the cling wrap?

Write down a few points.


Let’s see how our notes  compare. No wonder they look so delighted in the ad!

To me  – they were also selling:

–       Freshness – the ability to keep food fresh

–       Money saved by keeping food fresher for  longer

–       Self esteem for wives who prided themselves on being good homemakers – consider in the context of the times

–       Approval from husband and friends and neighbours

Remember, it’s not just about the physical product!

Also, there’s an old adage – you’re not selling insurance – you’re selling peace of mind.

Next time you have to “sell” a message – ask yourself “what else are you selling”? And remember the examples of the Carousel and the Cling Wrap.

So who is writing this?

Hi, I’m Tony Biancotti and I can help you harness your creativity and hook attention with lots of tips from everyday life for  boosting creativity and hooking attention in everyday situations.

I can also help you improve your presentations and business writing, pitching and working with the media.

I can share with you practical and easy-to-apply tips I’ve gathered over many years working as a:

  • TV journalist
  • political speechwriter
  • lawyer
  • blogger
  • musician and performer
  • coach and trainer in persuasionpositive messagespresenting and better e-mail and business writing.

You can contact me on:


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