Modern Mad Men

Published Jun 14 2018 Last updated Jun 14 2018 6 minute read


What would the Manhattan-swilling, cigarette-smoking, suit-clad advertising executives be doing if AMC’s hit show Mad Men were set in today’s advertising climate rather than the 1960’s? To start, you’d have to exchange the Manhattans for craft IPA’s, the Lucky Strikes for vape pens, and the suits and skinny ties for flannel shirts and skinny jeans. Just as Mad Men was set in the tumultuous ‘60’s, a turning point in advertising and culture, today’s advertisers face a similar inflection point. A seismic shift is underway in the advertising world, thanks to advances in technology, of course spurred by the now ubiquitous World Wide Web. We’re living in the Internet Age and what that means more than anything is we have more data on consumers than ever before-- maybe Ginsberg was right to be paranoid about computers replacing ad execs...

Between social media, search engine, email and browsing behavior, more and more of advertising is about effectively managing that data and using it to precisely target consumers. We’re moving from broad market segments to micro targeting and from Nielsen Surveys to Google Analytics. Today we don’t have to rely on intuition and surveys to track the ROI of marketing activities- we can track views, engagement and sharing in real time, and adjust campaigns on the fly. The amount of data we have on consumers is staggering, and data warehousing and management is an essential part of the advertising process. With the vast amounts of information on consumers, and more ways than ever before to reach them, how would Don Draper and the others at Sterling Cooper (Draper Pryce) handle today’s data-centric advertising world? (The gifs in the article come primarily from the awesome tumblr, Mad Men Integrated.)




One of the most marked changes in the advertising industry is the advent of hyper specific targeting. Back in Don’s day businesses sold people the common lifestyle they believed everyone wanted. There were 4 channels on TV, people read the paper, listened to the radio and saw a few billboards on the way to work. Nowadays cable packages include hundreds of channels, we stream shows online, watch videos on YouTube, see paid ads in Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, scroll past banner ads on webpages, sort through paid results in search engines and much, much more.  The American Marketing Association estimates that we are exposed to upwards of 10,000 advertisements every day. How would Don’s clever slogans manage to penetrate all that noise in 2018? He’d have to be extremely precise with his targeting.

The upside to the vast number of media platforms available to use and advertise on in 2018 is that user behavior and demographic information on them can be tracked to a very specific degree. Knowing the exact media users consume, their likes, dislikes, and basic demographic information is more knowledge than the room-sized computer acquired by Sterling Cooper and Partners in 1969. That’s powerful information when it comes to creating ads, the stuff of dreams for creatives like Don, whose sole job is to get into the head of consumers. In fact, the controversial data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica has found itself in hot water recently, amidst allegations that it used targeting data derived from psychological profiles on social media to propagate fake news stories and influence the outcome of the 2016 election. Talk about potent targeting. Like it or not that’s the paradigm we live in. Relevancy is saliency in the cluttered advertising market of today, and being able to target campaigns at the precise people for whom they are most relevant is key. We’re bombarded by ads, but we start to pay attention when they’re relevant to our needs and desires.

That’s not to say creativity is dead - far from it. Not only can we target micro segments of potential consumers, but if you’re aware of the segment, chances are someone else is too.  That’s where creativity comes back in. Your copy has to be quality to stand out amidst the clutter. It’s becoming harder to distinguish copy from content in this day and age, and brands are developing content that engages, surprises, informs and entertains customers. Just as Don emphasized that the product being sold doesn’t matter as much as the lifestyle behind it, it’s more about engaging in a creative and authentic dialogue with customers than it is necessarily about selling them a specific product in many cases. Don and Peggy’s creative talents would be spent on viral content than copy. Harry Crane would have to extol the virtues of the vertical video to Don, but we still can’t exactly picture him using Snapchat. Though maybe Headspace would be more Don’s thing, given where we last saw him.



In addition to the wealth of targeting information available to the savvy modern marketer, it is possible to track virtually every aspect of a marketing campaign, from eyes on the ad to overall ROI. Imagine if Peggy could track the effects of her Burger Chef campaign, from the number of viewers, to where exactly their eyes strayed while watching their content. In order to track the success of a campaign in the time of Mad Men, you’d have to survey people about what they watched or read, and then assume they saw the commercial from there. Even harder was tying that estimated number of impressions to actual sales data to determine the ROI of a campaign. With online businesses, we can track exactly where clicks are acquired from, a user’s behavior on the site, and if their visit ultimately leads to a sale. This allows for extremely accurate tracking, if you can make sense of all the data.

There is a preponderance of marketing channels that can be utilized and tracked in 2018, from Facebook, Snapchat and PPC to the traditional mediums like print, television (streamed or over the air), and airplane banner. Big brands can and do have campaigns running on tens of different platforms simultaneously. Nearly all of them can be tracked, in sometimes uncanny ways. Factor in content marketing, SEO, and crazy, real life marketing stunts and you’ve got a veritable data monsoon. The wealth of targeting and tracking information available to digital marketers today is a double edged sword.  On the one hand we have more precise targeting and tracking than Pete Campbell could ever dream of, on the other, we have so much data available to us that translating it into actionable intelligence is a monumental task. Data is pulled in from so many sources and in so many formats that it can almost seem like more data is a bad thing. Combining it all into a single system is a very time-consuming process. Having an effective marketing reporting stack is paramount in succeeding in today’s extremely cluttered advertising environment.


Data Management

Micro-targeting is building very precise profiles of consumers based on their social media and web behavior, and using that information to tailor advertisements specifically to individuals or small subsets of people. Those ads can be run on different platforms, depending on the behavior of the target. Micro-targeting is easy enough a theory to understand conceptually, but when you’re running several different campaigns on each of your numerous marketing channels, making sense of all the data can take a full team of experts just to keep track of. Data without insight isn’t worth anything. The expression popular in marketing and beyond “If you put garbage in, you get garbage out” is still valid in that your campaigns must be exceptionally well-crafted and targeted, but even if you put gold in, you can still get garbage out without adequate data management. Without insight to guide your future endeavors, you could be caught totally off-guard by changes in a channel you weren’t monitoring closely, like a lawnmower through the office.


That’s why modern companies need a streamlined solution that aggregates data from all their various marketing and advertising platforms in one place, where it’s then cleaned up, normalized, and mapped. From there, the integrated data can be quickly and easily fed into business intelligence and visualization tools. Sure you can look at individual data from your various sources - logging into their respective analytics platforms and opening them in 42 separate tabs in Chrome, but that’s kind of like keeping physical inventory in several small warehouses in the same town, instead of one larger, efficient one. Because marketing is increasingly digital and trackable, building a marketing reporting stack is a solution many companies are turning to for marketing data management.

Previously, reporting silos were the norm in marketing data management. With silos, even if all the data is imported into the same business intelligence suite, you can only include data from one source at a time when creating reports. Reporting stacks however, allow companies to visualize data from multiple marketing data sources in the same report. This integration allows more insight into marketing activity-- letting companies cross reference their Facebook data with their Google Analytics, their PPC data with their SEO efforts and more. Reporting is painless if you don’t have to spend your time hunting for the right data, and can instead craft compelling reports on it. Pete Campbell might have been a bit less punchable if he could have easily delivered in-depth client reports packed with insight, bringing in data from every channel Sugarberry Ham advertised on


The Mad Men of Tomorrow

The buzz in the industry lately is largely about artificial intelligence and predictive analytics. Someday soon, we might be replacing the spreadsheet-scanning interns of the world with artificial intelligent data assistants. There are already firms claiming to have AI’s that can take data insights and business intelligence to the next level and deliver predictive reports on demand. Predictive analytics is an emerging field that largely uses machine learning to predict trends and create reports aimed at optimizing campaigns to fit them. That’s not to say the job of the ad executive is soon to be gone however. Rather than replacing creatives, artificial intelligence will free up the time spent crunching the numbers so that the next Peggy Olson can craft that killer piece of content, and help her deliver it to exactly the right eyeballs. Artificial Intelligence engineers and their bots haven’t quite mastered the art of human emotion yet. The abundance of data available to today’s marketer is both a boon for targeting and tracking, and a headache if not managed properly. Free your team up to develop the next Carousel pitch, and make sure it finds the right audience with the help of intelligent targeting, tracking, and data insights. What happens next is history.

The famous Kodak Carousel pitch


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