Mad Men — the television drama that gave us an inside look at the 1960s era of advertising and all its evolving social, political, and gender issues — is over.
Despite the then accepted habit of downing cocktails for lunch and returning to the office with an afternoon buzz, the Mad Men of Madison Avenue’s advertising heyday got one thing right: A good idea is a good idea, regardless of era and technology.
During the Mad Men days, when consumers had very little if not zero choice in media, advertising creatives and marketers could afford to become complacent and witless.
No such luxury exists today.
Contemporary Mad Men are digital professionals with expertise in social, local, and mobile strategies. They’re tech savvy and dress the part. In fact, the term “creatives” is looking as dusty as the advertising agency office environment ruled by the ambitious likes of Mad Men’s suave central character, Sterling Cooper.
The Mad Men of today are innovation officers (yes, that is a job title at some leading agencies), people who truly understand that a good idea is still a good idea. But even more important is that digital technology and data shouldn’t change the idea but rather reinforce it, putting it at the fingertips and on the screens of a targeted consumer that top brands covet.
Put simply, digital Mad Men have what it takes to get a brand and a message in front of the right audience.
Traditional advertising is dying, making way for advertising buyers to precisely measure, adjust, and optimise their ad campaigns to target their preferred audiences.
Furthermore, mobile is transforming media in the same way the advent of digital technology eclipsed the traditional media model that emerged in the 1960s, and it is now gasping its last breaths.
The trend is unstoppable.
A CEO at one of NYC’s largest advertising holding companies recently told me that this year he will transfer 25% of his US$80 billion traditional advertising budget to digital media. If it wasn’t for live sports traditional, I believe television media would vanish completely.
Ad dollars are being held tightly by long-standing relationships rooted as far back as the 1960s, but even those relationships are getting warning shots over the bow that say change is coming.
SendtoNews has an office on Madison and 5th. Mere mention alone of this address resonates with the legacy of the Mad Men era. For the most part, the district still houses the majority of the big media companies. But as prices rise and markets shift, even they are moving further downtown.
Though the lion’s share of marketing budgets will reside with the majors, I believe smaller agencies will thrive as long as they focus squarely on digital, not as part of the business mix but as 100% of the focus.
As the Mad Men of days gone by understood well, some fundamentals will never change; marketing is about people and connecting with an audience.
In the words of author Simon Sinek, consumers “don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” The minds behind the world’s most powerful brands like Apple and Nike embrace the power of lifestyle marketing to fantastic success.
The digital Mad Men of today embrace this concept, but what’s changed from the Madison Avenue of the 1960s, besides the pack-a-day habits and martini-soaked lunches, are the tools of the trade.
Successful digital Mad Men are able to harness the channels and mobility of digital media to engage customers no matter where they experience your brand.
That’s because, without question, the biggest brands of tomorrow will be built online.