advertising, AMC, Coca Cola, Coke, Don Draper, Mad Men, Mad Men finale, Spiritual journey Don Draper
*Warning: This post contains spoilers*
So that’s how it ends… with a smirk and a Coke ad.
Immediately, dedicated fans went to a cynical place… Mad Men‘s Don Draper sold out… He was just in this for the advertising…
I do not believe Don’s resulting peace from the search for his identity wasn’t short lived. Quite the opposite. He found peace in being Don Draper. He found serenity in the slivers of his identity which remained Dick Whitman. And through his search, he discovered that in his soul, he was Don.
He was an ad man with a creative spirit at his core.
Much like Romans 14:14 “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean…” there is nothing sinful or wrong about advertising in itself. People like to think that Don returning to his passion meant that he abandoned all spiritual growth. Rather, I believe Don’s future indicated that ads can be used to send positive energies into the world – not just to objectify people and sell products. Think about the ads on television. Which ones bring positive memories? Which ones would you rather never see again?
I remember the Coke ad portrayed in the final scene from the early years of my childhood. Even though Coca Cola was trying to sell a product, they wanted to capture something positive at the same time, and spread that positive ethos into the world. The ad left harmonious feelings within me – probably for the remainder of my life.
In a past life, I was in marketing and public relations. I wrote press releases, created events that would attract people, and found ways to showcase our brand to the world. This work was thrilling. Being able to create and promote brought new challenges, unpredictability and the joy of art.
I still do some of this today. But now that I’m promoting God instead of products, it’s called evangelism. Like I said – advertising and promotion can be for good.
We like to think that some professions are the “good” or “clean” professions and others are “bad” or “unclean.” (Think about Jesus’ time. Tax collectors were the ultimate unclean job – besides taking care of pigs.)
Clergy, police, military, doctors and teachers are often considered the “clean” professions while advertising agents, lawyers or a plethora of other professions are “unclean.” Yet clergy and teachers are found in sexual misconduct. Occasionally, police and military will abuse their power. Of course, most people in these professions are noble and kind-hearted. But a profession should never dictate whether or not someone is a decent person.
Likewise, a profession shouldn’t indicate that someone is cynical or selfish. Lawyers defend innocent people and stand for noble causes all of the time. And artistic folks invigorated in the thrill of birthing an idea to build a brand use their creative juices to paint a picture and invoke emotions.
That was Don. But in the evolution of Don Draper, we see a soul continue to struggle and grow. Even though this growth happened, it doesn’t mean he must give up advertising. Instead, he uses advertising as a medium to bring the happiness he now has experienced into the world.
Don’s passion for advertising transcended much in his life. No matter what his personal life entailed, he still had a knack for the creative. When he felt his creativity became suffocated (in the antepenultimate episode), Don immediately left the meeting with the Miller rep and a room full of fellow ad men. The last passion he held onto, creativity in advertising, was drifting away from him, deepening his identity crisis. He needed to wander.
For three episodes, Don searched for who he was. Was he Don? Was he Dick? Was he an ad man, a fraud, a cheat? What has he done with his life? Did he give honor to the real Don Draper?
There is admiration in Don’s journey. He didn’t abandon the retreat when exposing his fallacies, suffering a panic attack and possibly contemplating suicide. He continued the tough work that was needed to find his true identity and discover whatever peace he needed to be his best self. While Don always professed “moving forward,” he had to work through some demons before he could truly move forward with his life.
He finally found peace. And then he found clarity. And then his creativity came back – in greater and positive ways.
So what if he went back into advertising? That’s Don at his best. Being at his healthiest and happiest, he will only produce quality ads – ones that take us to a place of bliss.
And that’s why we always will want to buy the world a Coke and live in harmony.
Just tonight, I discovered this article in which Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner explained the conclusion. While most of this was written before discovering the article, I am excited to see that my conclusion wasn’t far of from Weiner’s thoughts.