Features

Mad about Mad Men mentions

Mad MenIn an article about the Publicis Omnicom merger titled ‘Omnipotent or omnishambles?’ , The Economist wrote that it is “now compulsory to refer to the hit television series Mad Men in all articles about the ad business.”

Of course, The Economist was being its typically irreverent self. But, no. Seriously. It isn’t compulsory. Please stop.

After six seasons of Pete Campbell (my favourite anti-hero of all time, by the way) as an ad for adland, could there be another point of reference for the advertising industry?

Not all of them are entirely superficial though.

Here are a few nods to Mad Men in recent months, some from the trades, some from the mainstream press, that point to an industry that perhaps is not in interminable freefall, as the opening credits of AMC’s hit series suggest, but is going through the sort of upheaval that calls for a stiff scotch and a lie down.

From a bottom-line perspective, both companies are a far cry from Google—individually or together. They simply have too much creative—too many Don Drapers.

Omnicom-Publicis: Still Too Many People, Not Enough Robots – Businessweek, July 2013

Once home to creative types in the mold of Don Draper and “Mad Men,” Madison Avenue is increasingly a bastion of geeks: computer programmers, data heads and quantitative analysts.

Old-School Ad Execs Sweat as Data Geeks Flex Muscle – Wall Street Journal, August 2013

However much the traditional agency groups bulk themselves up, their glory days will not return. The glamour of the “Mad Men” era is in the past; these days the power is increasingly in the hands of the “Math Men”.

The future of advertising agencies Omnipotent, or Omnishambles?, The Economist, August 2013

In today’s fractured and explosive media age, public relations has surpassed advertising as the integrated communications and strategic counselor to clients, and Mad Men’s Don Draper doesn’t like it.

Draper may be a fictional protagonist, but his character’s dismissive treatment of PR exposes stereotypes and biases that the advertising industry still struggles with today. This attitude is detrimental to clients and employers alike.

In Mad Men‘s episode entitled “Public Relations,” Draper demonstrates his contempt for PR, which creates some great tension in the drama. He bullies his employees, fires a client, and antagonizes a one-legged reporter.

Too many ad execs think like Don Draper about PR – PR Week US, April 2012

Ever since the guys over at Cupertino gave us the iPhone, I have been forced to question pretty much every prevailing Mad Men wisdom that has been ruling the roost when it comes to digital or for that matter all of marketing.

Opinion: The Mad Men syndrome, by Ram Krishna Raja of IPG Mediabrands – Campaign AsiaApril 2012

Bag man?

Bag man?

From Mad Men to Bag Men: Frustrations of account managers under discussion

A headline on Mumbrella.com.au – May 2013

Old Fashioned isn’t simply Don Draper’s drink of choice it is also an apt (if trite) descriptor of that traditional form of advertising in the post-social media world. Obviously agencies are taking notice given the number of advertising and creative firms growing their PR offering. Obviously every discipline has a valuable role to play but increasingly PR deserves, and is justifying, its place at the head of the table.

Don Draper should be working in PR – Mumbrella.com.au, April 2013

One suspects that some clients still look at flashy reception areas and conjure up images of Martini-sipping Mad Men living the high life off their brands.

Adland must fight against crippling payment terms – Campaign, June 2013

Despite the meager ad sums – and a small audience for its first-run episodes – “Mad Men” is an important program. Mr. Draper, Mr. Sterling and their cohorts aren’t just trying to keep marketing clients happy. They are also carrying aloft an economic model for TV production that grows in importance as more cable outlets test their hand at edgy dramatic fare.

Why ‘Mad Men’ Has So Little to Do With Advertising – AdAge, August 2010

Mad Men reminds us that storytelling is the key to good advertising; that great advertising is about getting into your customer’s head; and that sometimes, the best ideas are conceived at the bar.

5 Things You Can Learn From Mad Men – Marketing, July 2013

As Don Draper has shown time and again, personal experiences are some of the best ways to connect to your customers. Not only does it render more effective, personal and human content, but it provides your customers with a sense that they know you, and in turn, know your business.

5 Lessons In Creative Content Marketing From Mad Men – Yahoo!, May 2013

The fictional Draper carries a lot of emotional baggage, but we can admire his uncanny insight and decisiveness. Our real-life campaign strategizing often resembles what happens on Mad Men before Draper enters the room… We have competing interests and ideas from different stakeholders, conflicting opinions about what customers want, and incompatible solutions from each faction.

As these discussions drag on, who wouldn’t want Don Draper to walk in and, with messianic zeal and Steve Jobs-like insight, blast away the conflict and confusion? He’d grab one of the concepts, change the headline, show how it really needed to be illustrated, and say, “Now, this will work.” And, of course, it would work.

Why Don Draper Shouldn’t Be Your Ad Guy – Forbes, June 2013

With all of these characters hovering around the age of 70, it was a reminder that advertising is still dominated by the generation of Mad Men who created their agencies in the 70s and 80s.

Where have all the young adland characters gone? – Campaign, June 2013

Almost sounds like a joke, doesn’t it? For the past 60 years, we account folks have been portrayed as the credit-card-carriers for the creative guys. (Consider Pete Campbell vs. Don Draper.) Planners came along, and we moved down another notch. The geeks came in and became instant heroes. Even media became cool.

But it turns out that the modern account executive is ideally positioned for the new world. Why? Because we are not specialists. We are, in Malcom Gladwell-speak, T-shaped entrepreneurs with a deep understanding of account management and a broad knowledge of all the related disciplines.

A Case for the Renaissance of Account Management – AdAge, April 2012

Mad Men article in Playboy81 year-old ad legend George Lois, known to be one of ‘the original Mad Men’, said [in an article in Playboy, no less] that the show “misrepresents the advertising industry by ignoring the revolution that changed the world of communications forever. That mortal sin of omission makes ‘Mad Men’ a lie.”

In the ’60s, the power was “taken away from the account executives and the business men and transferred to the talented people who actually made the ads,” says Lois. This was ignored in the show, he says.

Mad Men, he wrote, is “nothing more than a soap opera set in a glamorous office.”

Lois also said, at Cannes a few months back: “I look in the mirror and see the most intelligent person I’ve ever worked with.” So who knows what to believe?

There are 16 search results for the words “Mad Men” on Campaign Brief Asia’s website, 18 on Campaign Asia, 24 on Adoi, 26 on B&T, 29 on AdNews, 41 on Marketing, 60 on Mumbrella.com.au, 253 on Campaign UK, 450 on AdWeek and 481 on AdAge. Some of those references are about the show itself, and how it rated. An awful lot are not.

Could it be time to kill Draper off?

Robin Hicks

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