I love turning the gross amount of television I consume into a lesson I can use for work. It makes me feel slightly less ridiculous (there is a cartoon version of myself…there will always be a certain level of ridiculous). For my peace of mind and your reading enjoyment, here is the Benchmark 5: Lessons that Mad Men taught us about advertising.

  1. A little subtlety goes a long way. One of my favorite elements of Mad Men is that underlying premise is that looking back on life in the 60s is pretty hilarious. They use jokes that aren’t said, but actions or ideas of what was acceptable back then. Doctors smoking in the exam room or while holding babies. Picking up a picnic blanket and shaking off the garbage…and leaving it there on the ground. Those are just actions, that go unaddressed in the dialogue, but crack me up every time I see them. You don’t always have to hit your customer over the head with your message.
  2. Make them feel something. I still remember the Budweiser ad that ran only one time in the wake of 9/11. It was a strong feeling and it still gives me chills when I go back and watch it again on YouTube. Don Draper (and the Mad Men writers) put this idea far better than I ever could, when talking about the idea of nostalgia in his pitch for the Kodak Carousel. I’ll let Don speak for himself:
  3. “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” Sterling Cooper Draper Price was struggling after their biggest account, a tobacco company left for greener pastures. It created the perception that they were going down. So Don Draper did what he does and penned an editorial called “Why I’m quitting Tobacco.” What his partners originally considered suicide turned out to being their saving grace. It got people talking about something other than the loss of clients. If you’re ever facing some negative PR you can always use a creative ad to get people talking about something else.
  4. There’s no beating experience. The ad men of SCPD realized they can only do so much, when it comes to writing copy for women’s products. So, when they needed inspiration, they’d throw the women of the office into a room with a two-way mirror and the product and observe. That’s how Peggy wound up getting her shot as a copywriter. I live marketing every day, so that’s what I blog about. I’m certainly not qualified to tell you about parenting or rocket science. If you live and breath your product, you can sell it better than anybody else.
  5. It’s important to know the who and where. When advertising, you have to decide to whom you are advertising and where your product is being purchased. There is a memorable scene when Betty Draper purchased beer at a super market, based on displays Don had placed in the supermarket. While she may have felt like she was manipulated, it proved the point. Gender roles have shifted a lot since the 60s, but even back then they knew that while their product might be mostly consumed by men, it was the women doing the grocery shopping that they needed to advertise to.