Mad Men ... Unfashionably Off Strategy

There are few television shows I watch these days, fewer that I enjoy.  Those that I do watch are quite a few clicks away from the major networks.  Occasionally, my eye turns toward the preview of a new show or more often, struggles to hide from its incessant barrage of pre-launch promotions sometimes six months in advance of the debut.  I remember when the AMC-produced "Mad Men" started running ads on stations like FX, my fav station.  It only took one spot to win me over.  One, it was retro, set in the 60s ... easily the coolest era in American culture.  Two, it was about an industry, the advertising world, that defined New York and America … Madison Avenue. Born in the 60s, albeit a youngster, I have some fond memories of classic advertising from my father who worked in Philadelphia’s smaller version of Madison Avenue – Society Hill … designing, concepting and selling brands.  I thought it was cool.

So as I read the story by Lynn Elber with Associated Press on, “’Mad Men’ pulls on pop culture,” having not only exposed people to the decadent lifestyle of the fictitious Sterling Cooper agency, but how fashionable almost all of it was – from the dress to the creative to womanizing.  Ms. Elber notes a number of reputable personalities who feel like I do about the show.  Robert Thompson, director the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse “calls the show, ‘brilliant’ and a gift to television.”  Ms. Elber writes, “Al Jean, executive producer of Fox’s ‘The Simpsons,’ pronounces himself a ‘Mad Men’ devotee.”  So I’m in good company for agreeing … not on the behavior, but on the ability to deliver a slice of a past era. How does any of that play today?  Well, it doesn’t.  In my firm, the males are the minority for one.  Decadence, ego and entitlement are gone.  We work in a “Mad Men-Free Zone.”  As if that wouldn’t inspire Mr. Draper to leap from a tall building, traditional big TV and print advertising is no longer the end-all medium.  And in the current environment, companies need to start taking those ad dollars and dropping them into grassroots public relations and social media if they want to connect with their customer, regardless if that customer is a consumer or a business.  Decadent ad spending is, well, out of fashion.  The scotch glass is gone from the boardroom, replaced by a silver tray of bottled water.  I know it’s maddening to some, but it’s the future.  Cheers.

By Dean Trevelino

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