The show Mad Men came to a close last night, and we’re getting a final look at the state of advertising during the creative revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. So this month, in honor of Mad Men’s television finale, The AD Club asked several of our Leaders and members: What’s different and what’s the same about the ad business and creativity between the Mad Men era and the present? What does the future of the industry look like? Can you share any predictions for the future?
This is what they had to say…
Putting aside the arguments that many have regarding drinking, workplace equality, gender roles, and other social and political issues addressed during Mad Men’s seven year installment , the show has successfully highlighted two truths that have remained the same decade after decade: Clients don’t always know best (I kid, I kid), as well as sometimes you have to go with your gut. While our industry and the ideation process has evolved greatly since the 1960s, thanks to technology and the resulting data driving decision-making, the decision making process still involves a sense of human intuition. Creativity has always been at the heart of our industry, and I believe the next decade will only bring an intensification of data-fueled creativity limited only by our lack of imagination and desire to innovate.
The same: It’s still about gaining the right kind of attention for your brand. What’s different: the amount of stuff you have to compete with for that attention. And that changes everything. When people had no choice but to see your message, you could be lazy and dull. You could also have two-hour lunches and come back drunk. When you have to win their attention in an endless number of media, you eat at your desk.
Such a great show – I will be so sorry to see it come to a close. It has reminded me of many things I love about this industry. I have vivid memories of one of the shows in (I think) the third season. It was when Don was selling an idea to the executives from Kodak on their latest 35mm slide projector. The client came in with a very rational brief, calling it a “wheel” – but Don responded with a much bigger, more powerful idea. He harnessed the emotional power and wonder of a child on a Carousel. He renamed the product, inspired the client and showed how great ideas, beautifully crafted, can change an entire category. That’s something we should never, ever forget about our business. In our soul, we are about great, creative ideas. As far as all the rampant male chauvinism and “before lunch” alcoholism – we won’t miss that! That’s something that belongs back in the 60’s!…
My father worked at N.W. Ayer & Sons until the late ’60s, so I’ve always felt connected to that world. He put David Ogilvy on a pedestal reserved otherwise for Phillies’ Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn (we’re from Philly). My favorite Ogilvy maxim is “search all the parks in all your cities. You’ll find no statues of committees.”
As I moved into advertising, my father, (remembering the Don Draper days) said “Be careful. There’s lots of drinking.” Sadly by then, the three-martini lunch was down to a cappuccino—skim, of course. Smoking squelched, ties out, and computers in.
Now I have kids in college. What can I tell them about the future of this business? There will always be room for ideas. Data and efficiency now matter, but truly authentic ideas always win. If you’re creative and think big, there will be room for you at the table 20 years from now. Just don’t smoke. Look what happened to Betty.