How Mad Men Applies to Advertising Today

Five Things to Help You Think Differently: Issue 11

Posted: Apr 23, 2014

In an effort to help you stay up-to-date on the latest trends in communication, technology, and our dynamic world, we wanted to share some resources to help you think differently about the way your organization is communicating, sharing, and inspiring its constituents.

Mad Men, AMC’s hit show about Madison Avenue advertising executives in the 60s and 70s, just started airing its seventh season. Even those who have not watched the show know that Mad Men portrays advertising as a cutthroat industry where one lives to sell and sells to live. When the show’s agency, Sterling Cooper & Partners, selects their clients, there are few moral lines drawn—as long as the client can pay, the firm will make it work.

Although some aspects of the show hint at uncomfortably relevant realities, the fact of the matter is, times have changed. At Pyramid, our reality is about caring for our clients and the communities they’re a part of.

Despite the questionable behavior of the characters on the hit series, however, the agency’s creative visionary, Don Draper, shares some valuable insights when it comes to smart selling and audience engagement. This week’s Five Things looks at quotes from the show and how they relate (or don't) to the communications world we live in today.

1. “If you don't like what’s being said, change the conversation.”

Though our clients focus on different issues than those in Mad Men, our approach is the same. Whether it is through positioning, branding, or messaging, it’s about helping to change the conversations around the issues that matter most to you.

2. “Success comes from standing out, not fitting in.”

If you want to generate change, you need to stand out. The key to success lies in reaching your audiences in fresh and unique ways.

3. “You feeling something. That’s what sells.”

When there is passion in your work, it becomes easier to rally people around your cause.

4. “A slogan’s nothing when you have a good idea.”

If you have a meaningless product, a slick creative campaign isn’t going to help you. Unless your product or idea is anchored in a strong vision, you will struggle to connect with people in a meaningful way.

5. “You want to be on some people’s minds. Some people, you don't.”

After setting your goals, one of the next things to do is identify your core audiences. Who exactly are you trying to reach? What appeals to them? How and where do they spend their time? What are they passionate about? Once your audience is clear, then you can determine how to reach them. 

Although people can easily write it off as just another TV show (and I can appreciate that), if I look a little closer, I think there’s a lot to learn from Mad Men. It’s often not the marketing or the pitches that stand out to me, but how they present campaigns and talk about companies in creative ways that are deeply rooted in humanity.