Workplace Culture and Why “Mad Men” is Bullshit

POSTED BY Tim Barcz - 05.24.13 - Digital marketing, Awards and recognition

Don Draper from AMC's "Mad Men"

When asked to think of a marketing agency, it’s not uncommon for people to think of the agency model personified in the AMC television show "Mad Men".

In the show, main character Don Draper - agency partner and creative director - is portrayed as a messianic figure in marketing. His ideas are always brilliant. He is always right. If not embraced by the team he simply orders them to fall in line. If not embraced by the client, the client is wrong and only needs more convincing (or in extreme cases, to be fired).

You could argue if this type of top-down approach ever worked for workplace culture. In the modern day, this model is bullshit. While "Mad Men" is certainly entertaining to watch, we here at Fusionfarm believe collaboration, not dictatorial fiat, is what the current world requires and what brings the most amount of success and creates a great workplace culture.

Follow along while I posit what really matters in a marketing agency and why Fusionfarm’s attitudes and culture support meeting those needs. As an example, Fusionfarm is recognized and included in an elite group of businesses that includes Zappos and DaVita.

A New Reality

In order for an agency to excel for a client it has to partner with the client. There has to be a mutual respect and a significant amount of time invested on the part of the agency to understand the business. The digital explosion presents us with an ever increasing number of tools to reach customers. In order to build and execute these strategies and tactics the agency has to intimately understand the needs of the business and its customers as well as exercise its curiosity not only about the business but about what will drive and grow the partner business.

As a new team member to Fusionfarm - two weeks as of this writing - I've had enough time to get a sense of how business flows and the people involved, and yet not long enough to be blinded by our own way of doing things. I've been impressed by the team here to the point I posted on Facebook about the team.



A Culture Worth Working For

Workplace culture has been a hot topic for over the past decade. The dotcoms of the 90's ushered in a new era where perks like catered meals, naps at work, and offices with playground slides were considered common. Much has been written and explored about what drives and motivates us as well as what makes us feel good about the work we do. While flex time, free mochas, and massages are de rigueur, to truly get the best from your people you have to foster a culture that supports their drive to become masters of their trade.

Naps, slides, and massages are simply window dressing and what employees truly desire is a place to do great work. Fusionfarm is fostering this culture by hiring great people and as they come onboard, asking the best of them and giving them ownership in the process and the results we all seek to create.



In discussing the culture, I learned that Fusionfarm had recently been added to a select list of companies on the WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Workplaces. WorldBlu is an organization based on 10 principles of organizational democracy that certifies companies only after surveying the employees of that company. Fancy values, mission statements, or lists of perks from top brass do not matter, what matters is the thoughts of the team.

“Our purpose is to unleash human potential and inspire freedom by championing the growth of democratic organizations worldwide.” -

WorldBlu captures an essence of the workplace that ultimately creates great things by recognizing a simple premise - what can be accomplished by two people is often better than what can be created by one. By being open and trusting with your team and those around you, your trust will be met with commitment and that ultimately through this ecosystem, passion flows and better ideas and execution emerge through shared ownership and responsibility.

As an agency, this flies in the face of the "Mad Men" model. The differences between the two models are quite stark, but let me ask you two questions: Which type of company would you rather work for? Which company would you rather work with?

If you have questions about how to unravel this digital jungle of information for your business or simply have questions, we invite you to come to us and allow us to put our collective minds together and work with you on how to grow your business. We’re a group of passionate individuals who thrive on success and we’d love to explore with you, not tell you, what you need to do for your business.

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