Mad Men’s Don Draper on Digital Advertising

May 8th, 2013 by Daniel Laws

As an addict of the AMC series “Mad Men,” I’ve been thinking about what Don Draper would say about my digital agency and today’s advertising industry. If you don’t know, Don Draper is the Creative Director and a founding partner at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce ad agency in the show. The series is based on a 1960s New York advertising agency that fights for recognition in the industry as well as key players making their mark. Don Draper is a key character within the show that works to tell the story of the agency’s clientele.

I thought it would be interesting to put myself in Don Draper’s shoes to see what he would most likely say about the growing digital landscape as an ad man. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Agencies still need to present great ideas to clients. It could be a unique creative solution or technology, but it always starts with an idea that helps the client solve a problem.
  • It’s about storytelling in all formats: print, media, mobile, digital, PR, branding, and creative, but with more research and analytics geeks to deliver info for informed storytelling and engagement.
  • Storytelling doesn’t just apply to the marketing mix; it also applies to the reporting. Multiple data sources, tag management solutions, and data visualization are all part the story. The more information that you have on the customer or prospective customer’s story that manifests into actionable recommendations or insights, the better.
  • Creative is still important, but not without testing, measurement, and outcomes. Not just ad creative either, but creative in the sense of identifying solutions to client challenges. Think about digital & creative on the path toward creating a successful outcome.
  • Digital creates more opportunities, but someone still has to sell it! From more graphic designers that create banner ads to analysts that implement a tag management solution for attribution analysis. Our client’s don’t always see the value, so we need to sell the story along with the impact it will have on selling more products or services.
  • It’s a tough journey from creative, to messaging, to measuring outcomes. Without the right people and technology, it will be more like a nightmare.
  • It’s an opportunity to improve the marketing mix and turn data into insight. The March 2013 issue of Advertising Age brought this up in an article “Data, Data Everywhere, and not an Insight in Sight.” The bottom-line is that big data still needs to be customer-centric and segmented. You need to have some idea on what you plan to do with the data.
  • You need the right talent and you need to cultivate it. It took time for Peggy to become a Copy Chief! Many ad executives are looking for the next “Big-Data Draper,” but in today’s environment, that’s like looking for a unicorn. I think it’s more realistic to develop a team of creative analytics geeks that work well together than the “Big-Data Draper” approach.
  • Don’t just give customers/clients what they want, but recommend what they need with a story. Marketers have become obsessed with technology, but isn’t the idea to make more money from selling products and services?
  • Digital Advertisers & Analysts need to tell the public a better story on the usage of big data, tracking, and security! We’re collecting data to recommend products/services, we’re tracking to see what works so we can stop sending you bullshit, we’re securing the data based on existing industry standards, and we’re proactively looking for methods to save customers time and money while better servicing your needs.

While today’s digital advertising is growing, so is the need to provide creative digital solutions to clients. In my opinion, it starts with a team of good people with good ideas. Don’t let the technology control the outcome, but think about how to leverage technology or even expand its capabilities to achieve exactly what you want. Remember that what is standard technology today will be mediocre tomorrow, but storytelling and the need for creative solutions will be around for a life time.

Do you have a Draper-ism of your own when it comes to the digital advertising landscape? Let us know in the comments below!

Danny founded DMG in 2008 and continues to lead in developing an industry-leading digital agency while emphasizing online measurement best practices. Under Danny’s direction and leadership, DaBrian Marketing Group has become Reading, PA’s leading digital agency focused on demonstrating value through measurement of marketing campaigns.

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