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        Business insights: What ‘Mad Men’ taught us

        Business insights: What ‘Mad Men’ taught us

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          The Mad Men TV series is a source of fascination for modern advertising agencies. Although it’s set in the 1960s, leading character Don Draper has some innovative marketing ideas that transcend the decades.

          For anyone unfamiliar with the long-running US drama, the title was the nickname for the ad men based in offices on Madison Avenue in Manhattan in the 1950s.

          Draper, the fictional advertising executive at Sterling Cooper ad agency, grabbed our attention for 92 episodes, spanning seven series, following individuals in the industry from 1960 to 1970. The Mad Men advertising agency was the heart of the series that ran from July 2007 to May 2015.

          The brainchild of American writer Matthew Weiner, it taught us some valuable lessons on how advertising agencies and other businesses, can keep clients and employees happy, reaching new heights of success, whatever challenges are thrown our way.

          Why businesses need marketing agencies

          Businesses need marketing agencies more than ever in today’s highly competitive climate. With the advent of social media, everyone has 24-hour access to products and services, making it increasingly important to stand out from the masses.

          Marketing agencies plan, create and handle a business’s marketing needs, creating marketing campaigns tuned to their clients’ unique needs. They will promote your brand effectively and have all the resources and connections to make your campaign a success.

          They understand how to make ads and place ads, already having the necessary technical resources and digital programs at their fingertips. Getting the job done cost-effectively, they will help to market and grow your business in a professional way, taking the strain off you. As a business owner, you don’t need to worry – your agency has you covered.

          So, just what is it about the 1960s fictional character Don Draper that provides today’s marketing executives with some valuable insights?

          Mad Men quote

          Every client is unique

          One of Don’s talents was being able to see that every client was not a one-size-fits-all project. His most famous quote is, “You must see the advertising world through a wide-angle lens in order to succeed.”

          When creating ideas that would succeed, he used all the available resources – including the diverse range of employees at Sterling Cooper: a prime example is the secretary, Peggy, who climbs the ladder of success in the male-dominated world of advertising in the 1960s under Don’s guidance. She becomes a leading copywriter and in later episodes, Don comes to rely on her creative support and unique ideology.

          This teaches us about the benefits of diversity in the workplace. It gives employers the opportunity to provide a different point of view and a better all-round perspective. This helps us to deliver a unique service for each client.

          Diversity and inclusion in the workplace are commonplace today, but in the Don Draper era, it was something new. It’s important to remember that people who grew up in different environments will have their own perspective on the same thing.

          Marketing agency professionals need to draw from several different interpretations on a piece of work. This doesn’t mean recruiting and retaining just millennials. Never overlook the value of experienced, older people on your staff. Recruiting a mix of ages gives you an opportunity to access a wide range of views for concepts the agency can develop.

          Understand your audience

          Don Draper had a knack for understanding the brand and its target audience – the foundation for creating a successful advertising campaign. A great example was his “carousel speech” – a sales pitch he delivered at a meeting with Kodak to promote their new slide projector.

          The rousing pitch was surprising, considering Draper was detached from his own family, as it perfectly captured the nostalgic feelings of people holding onto happy memories of bygone times with loved ones. He was pitching what he was yearning for – a lifestyle many of his co-workers were actually living.

          He managed to speak of the product on an intimate and personal level, describing the projector as a “time machine” that could take us back to an era where we “ache to go again” through reliving the memories. He told the client, “It’s called a carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels – around and around and back home again, to a place where we know we’re loved.”

          This has been described as the greatest pitch in Mad Men, because he makes it personal and relatable. He demonstrates his ability to tap into what consumers want most, crafting his message around their emotions to ultimately sell the product.

          While technology today has moved on far beyond the humble slide projector, the need for marketeers to connect with potential customers on a personal level is greater than ever.

          Positive environment

          Diversity in the workplace on its own isn’t enough. Employees need to feel they’re in a positive environment that is honest and open enough to accept their contributions without judgement.

          This is where 21st century marketing agencies can teach Don Draper a few things. After all, even though Peggy climbed the corporate advertising ladder after joining the company as a secretary, she still faced an uphill struggle as a woman. Even when she was a copywriter, she had to defend her projects time after time to her male colleagues, who remained sceptical of her abilities.

          Creating a great place to work means maintaining small, yet meaningful, things consistently. Encourage employee benefits and rewards for good work. As Don Draper says, in one of his most famous lines, “Advertising is based on one thing – happiness.”

          This goes for the workforce, as well as consumers. Happy employees are more creative and productive.  Don goes on to say happiness is “freedom from fear” – and this is true when it comes to colleagues feeling confident enough to speak up in the office.

          Believe in teamwork, because even if there are some exceptionally gifted people in the workplace, marketing will always be a collaborative effort, with colleagues working collectively to ensure campaign success.


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