If You Could Pick Only One, Would You Hire Don, Peggy or Joan?

I asked, and a litany of advertising VIPs answered

We know them better than we know some of our own peers. We've admired their work. We've watched them present. We've seen them build an agency. We've also witnessed them create problems, fail miserably and fight among themselves.

So if your creative department could hire only one character from Mad Men, who would it be: Don Draper, Peggy Olson or Joan Holloway? I posed that question on Facebook this week, and creative directors and agency executives wasted no time weighing in.

Yes, there's a winner, and (spoiler alert) no, it's not Don. But what's perhaps more interesting is the fact that despite all the changes our industry has lived through, we still admire and need many of the qualities Don, Peggy and Joan brought to the office everyday.

Don's ability to sell, read a room, and come up with the big idea still matters. At least to those willing to overlook his shortcomings. Peggy's scrappiness, work ethic and the ability to evolve, earn her lots of admirers, both women and men. Joan's radar and sensible approach to problem solving won over people who value "getting shit done."

Here's whom creative directors and executives would like in their creative departments.

• "Don. He swings for the fences."
      —Joe Grimaldi, chairman of Mullen/Lowe
• "Don because he can create and sell. Creatives often forget that creating means nothing if you can't sell your idea."
      —Roger Baldacci, former ECD and svp, Arnold Worldwide
• "Don reads rooms better than any of them and can instinctively shift between vision, execution, and client wrangling, all without losing his advantage. Unless, of course, he's loaded."
      —Chris Wooster, executive creative director, T3
• "Don. Agencies feed off those key figures with the big, charismatic personalities. Those types are rare. They draw talent and attract clients."
      —Tim Cawley, founder and chief creative officer, Sleek Machine
• "Definitely Don. For Ideasicle, a virtual ideation model, he could be drunk and banging chicks all he wants at home, so long as he takes a nanosecond here and there to post a genius idea."
      —Will Burns, founder of the expert sourcing platform Ideasicle.

Interestingly, only one woman voted for Draper: Kala Horvitz, a planner and principal at Public Detective.  Overall, more people preferred Peggy, despite BBDO CD Paul Laffy's criticism that "she always swings for the infield."  But the hard working copywriter garnered 40 percent more votes than Don in my straw poll:

• "Peggy. She's got grit and wit. And hard work will always get you to better ideas faster than highballs."
      —Rob Schwartz, CEO of TBWA/Chiat Day New York
• "Peggy. She is the only character that has talent plus a good work ethic."
      —Kat Gordon, creative director and founder of The 3% Conference
• "Peggy for sure. She's brilliant. She's scrappy.  She learns and evolves. And the with the industry changing daily I want someone like that on my team."
      —Liz Doten, freelance creative director
• "Peggy. Work needs to get done and Don doesn't do any."
      —Tim Leake, svp of growth and innovation, RPA
• "Peggy. I think high-work-ethic/medium-talent beats medium-work-ethic/high-talent."
      —Luke Sullivan, author of Hey Whipple, Squeeze This and chair of the advertising department at SCAD

Joan was the outlier. I included her as a creative when it became apparent in the closing scenes of the finale that she's on her way to becoming a producer. And my guess is she'll be a damn good one. A few folks agreed:

• "Joan. She brings a whole different set of perspectives and life experiences from the rest of the creative department and is exceptionally creative about how she tackles and solves problems."
      —Cindy Gallop, former chair and president of BBH U.S.
• "Joan is the undiscovered talent. The one who comes in through the back door without a portfolio. Then, slowly over time, you realize that every time you're in a meeting she says something smart. She solves problems. She has fantastic ideas. She can sell. And she gets shit done."
      —Liz Gumbiner, creative director, entrepreneur, founder of Cool Mom Picks
• "Joan. I love the stealth employees. The ones you'd never even think of stopping in the hallway to get her opinion on an idea. She's just a secretary. She's just a project manager. She's not creative. What does she know? But she knows a ton. Probably more than you."
      —Ernie Schenck, creative director, writer, contributing editor for Communication Arts

Personally, I'm for Joan, too. Given that a big challenge for creative departments these days is getting all the moving parts to work together I have no doubt Joan can pull it off. And probably throw in a good idea now and then, too.

Then again, if none of these makes your list, you could always listen to Hill, Holiday CCO Lance Jensen. "Matthew Weiner. It's all about the stories."

So, who would be your pick?

Edward Boches is a professor of advertising at Boston University and former partner/CCO at Mullen. Follow him on Twitter at @edwardboches.