Mad Men comes back to TV. But what about real life?

Mad Men Season 4 opens with a scrappy upstart agency getting a lot of ink, but still not having a conference table. For some reason, the image felt very familiar to me (although I should add that after five years, Traction did finally get a real conference table this year).

"Earned Media" then and now.
With a nod to the world we live in (SPOILER AHEAD), the creative team used "earned media" to support their print campaign for a canned ham. They paid two old ladies to get in a fight over a ham at the local supermarket and slipped a photo to the Daily News. One could imagine the story taking off even faster if the ham company had a Twitter account, but take off it did, reminding us all once again that today's generation of marketers has not invented a damn thing.

Of course, this is not the first time Mad Men has reminded us that the "Olden Days of Advertising" truly were the "Golden Days of Advertising." Remember the department store account in Season 1? Don Draper  told the owner to put a restaurant in the lobby because he knew that wealthy shoppers wanted their luxury brand experience to be more than just another visit to the department store. His thinking was "innovative: and "out-of-the-box." But Don was right and the client listened. They built the restaurant because it was the right thing to do.

Step into the ROI Time Machine.
Could you imagine that conversation in today's ROI-driven world?

Don Draper: "You should build a fancy restaurant in the lobby. It's what will make your customers come back again. And mention you on their Facebook Walls."

Department Store CMO: "That sounds like a wonderful idea. Can you provide an ROI model that can tell me exactly how I'll make all of my money back in the next twelve months?"

Don Draper: "Um, no. No one has ever built a fancy restaurant in the lobby of a department store before. That's what makes this such a special idea."

Department Store CMO: "Of course! Wow. But can you provide a spreadsheet that outlines the past performance of department store fancy lobby restaurants? Then I can ask for budget." 

Don Draper: "But, no one has eve... We have one other idea? How about this new DSP (department store picker) machine that can get you marginally lower click-through rates on a banner ad that will reach people that look like your customers while they are reading about Lindsay Lohan's underwear on Perez Hilton?"

Department Store CMO: "That sounds like a wonderful idea. Can you provide an ROI model that can tell me exactly how I'll make all of my money back in the next twelve months?" 

Don Draper: "Sure."

Department Store CMO: "Sold."

Brand experiences today more dire than ever.
The need for Don Draper mentality is more important today than it's been in the past fifty years. Why? Because, the relentless focus on ROI is driving brands toward commoditization faster than anything has since Bill Bernbach wrote the word "Lemon" under a picture of a VW Beetle. 

Today, "innovation in marketing" is regularly used as a term to describe the latest way to drive down CPMs or CPCs or CPAs—instead of how to drive up desire, demand and esteem in the mind of your customers.

This is a mistake. Yes, we need to measure. Yes, we need to optimize. Yes, we need to understand what's working and spend our money wisely. 

But the truth is that half of the things marketers should be doing for their brands are not predictably quantifiable. They require strategic thinking, creativity, vision and instinct to pull off—not spreadsheets that complex mathematical equations over disjointed assumptions. 

New ideas are new. The Mad Men of advertising knew this. Have we forgotten?

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