Mad Men’s writers heard my prayers for black people to walk across the screen—and maybe into the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce office—in its fifth season. Not only did we see a group of wet and pissed off picketers in the agency’s lobby, but the slick ad men were forced to honor their equal opportunity employer newspaper ad and hire Dawn—a young, pretty black receptionist—for Don Draper.
Young & Rubicam executives bombing civil rights protestors with soggy brown bags of water, SCDP’s joke of a newspaper ad, and the hiring of a token black employee—all incidents that were tightly contained thanks to the snail-speed 1960s news cycle. But how would these racially charged shenanigans have played out if mobile phones, the internet, and social media were around during that time?
9 a.m.: Two Y&R junior executives hear civil rights protestors outside their window. The pair gets the bright idea to fill paper bags with water and wet the protestors on the sidewalk below. Marie, a woman on her lunch break, witnesses the prank and snaps a photo with her mobile phone. She tweets: “How insensitive. And rude. This is what someone obviously thinks of others’ quest for equality,” and attaches the photo.
9:10 a.m.: Marie’s boyfriend John—a New York Times reporter—sees the tweet and calls her for clarification. He escalates the information to his editor. John is assigned the story. He leaves the office to interview picketers.
9:25 a.m.: When John arrives, he sees the picketers walking into the building. They’re on their way to Y&R’s office to discover who the water sack culprits are. Once inside the lobby, John takes a seat in the back, writes up the details of the scene, snaps a photo, and sends the information to his editor—all on his iPad. As he leaves, his editor posts John’s story to the paper’s website.
10:30 a.m.: Word spreads about the New York Times blog post. Roger, Don, Pete, and Lane joke about their competitor’s poor judgement. Roger pulls out his phone and immediately tweets: “Sad to learn of Y&R’s disdain toward other races. SCDP takes pride in being an equal opportunity employer.”
10:35 a.m.: Paul, a popular blogger, sees Roger’s tweet and pulls up the staff page on SCDP’s website. He sees a page of photos featuring nothing but white faces.
11:30 a.m.: Because of Roger’s tweet, SCDP’s lobby is filled with black men and women—resumes in tow—seeking employment at the agency. Employee email boxes are immediately clogged with incoming resumes and cover letters.
11:40 a.m.: Paul writes a blog post calling SCDP’s bluff and tweets a link to the piece. He also emails the link to the New York Times editor.
1:00 p.m.: Y&R releases a written statement apologizing for the young executives’ behavior. The two are given administrative leave with pay. Don chooses and hires Dawn as his secretary. Her photo is uploaded to the company website
8:00 p.m.: Dawn, an aspiring writer, starts a WordPress blog about her experiences working at the all-white SCDP.
10:00 a.m.: John H. Johnson, Ebony magazine creator, emails Dawn and asks to be a contributing writer for the magazine and its blog.
Read Black Enterprise’s interview with Teyonah Parris, Mad Men’s first regular black actor, who plays Dawn Chambers.