12/21/2011 12:40 pm ET | Updated Feb 19, 2012

Remaking Occupy's Image: What Would Don Draper Do?

The Occupy Movement has taken a beating in the press. While it is credited with changing the nation's obsession from debts and deficits to income inequality, the protesters -- for months camped out in tents -- have found their image in desperate need of repair. For a fix, they might look to a perhaps unlikely source of knowledge: The Mad Men of the advertising industry.

The challenge

While many reports have been straightforward, a good number of stories on the Occupy Movement have been informed by conservative ideology. On Fox News and on Glenn Beck's show, the descriptions of protesters range from "lazy hippies" to "dangerous criminals." They are referred to as socialists, atheists, and un-American.

Though replete with cultural stereotypes, exaggerations and outright falsehoods, the negative images have stuck in the minds of a good number of people. At a downtown Boston bus stop, one government employee who gave his name only as Bill said he despised the Occupy protesters as "people who don't want to work." Asked for his main source of news, he replied, "Nationally, I listen to some radio. I'll listen to Glenn Beck a lot, but that's about it."

So when your image is sullied, your fundraising is sinking fast and a poll shows even a majority of "Millennials" have a low opinion of your movement... you might consider turning to that paragon of cultural excess and Madison Avenue self-absorption: Don Draper.

In the imaginary world of Mad Men, there is no product that Draper cannot sell, no image he cannot fix; perhaps even that of the Occupy Movement under assault from its detractors. Just think of this sample of his singular advice:

"There is the rare occasion when the public can be engaged beyond flash, if they have a sentimental bond with the product."

From dirty hippies to military metaphors

Roger Baldacci is a real-life ad man, the executive creative director at Arnold Worldwide in Boston. When you walk into Baldacci's 22nd-floor office, the first things you notice are the stunning view of the city and the nearly three dozen awards sitting on his desk, including several Clio global advertising statues.


"I was going to offer you a martini or something," Baldacci joked.

Putting himself in Draper's shoes, how would this veteran ad exec spruce up the battered image of Occupy protesters?

"I think Don Draper would do what I would do, which is to reframe the argument," said Baldacci.

"Right now the Occupy folks they look like squatters and they're kind of unkempt and dirty. I would turn that around and I would make them the new freedom fighters in the war against greed."

Baldacci continued spinning out his pitch:

"I would use military terms. We're all in love with the military these days. Instead of calling the occupation sites camps, I would call them... 'forward operating bases'. FOBS. And I would enlist members of the military, who are also part of that 99 percent, in full gear."

That's just one element of his Occupy re-imaging strategy. Here's another:

"I would take it to the perpetrators. I would take the fight to the CEOs, the richest CEOs in America. Think about it: Why occupy sites in urban centers when you can crash the CEOs' parties? "What I might do is go a little Michael Moore on them. I might go to them and talk to them and get them on camera; Go to the gated, tony communities where they live and let them see the 99 percent on their doorstep."