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Mad Men's Success in The Digital Age

I started my career in advertising in 1965…right in the middle the Mad Men era. I was a huge fan of the show and created a popular blog, Mad Men Confidential, that gave readers my inside commentary on each episode. Mad Men chronicled the Golden Age of advertising, decades before the internet, digital communications and social media. Mad Men is quintessential 1960s Madison Avenue, yet the show was enthusiastically adopted and adapted by today’s digitally enabled viewers. While the narrative of Mad Men is firmly entrenched in the ‘60s, the show enjoyed a thriving “present” life in both the real and virtual worlds of its fans. These connections flowed from an enduring interest in the ad world, a fascination with the ’60s and, perhaps most of all, the deep, character driven, storytelling prowess of the show. Compelling characters and brilliantly executed content can transcend time and place.

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Initially, AMC set up its own @MadMen Twitter account. But something unusual happened. Independent of the show’s marketing campaign, Mad Men characters started popping up on Twitter with their “personal” accounts. We got to meet @dondraper, @peggyolson and the rest of the cast in real time. These “unauthorized” Mad Men Twitter personalities were created and painstakingly brought to life and cared for every day by dedicated fans and followers. Fictional characters from the ‘60s actually lived a fan generated parallel life in the present day. Their digital personas became intertwined and interconnected with their lives on the show and a Mad Men character driven Twitter sub-culture evolved.

Predictably, when these “unauthorized” Twitter accounts popped up, the network acted like they were stuck in the ‘60s and moved quickly to shut them down. But backlash from viewers to bring them back was so strong that the decision was reversed. Don Draper’s sobering welcome to the power of social media.

Creativity Inspires Cultural Infusion

Beyond these personas on Twitter there were fan generated Facebook pages, stunning Pinterest boards, countless blogs, You Tube Videos, etc. The scope and creativity of this fan adoption and adaptation was impressive. Mad Men infographics visualized a range of facts and information from each show, there were “What Would Don Draper Do” blogs about everything from problem solving to Occupy to advertising the Olympics. An article in The Huffington Post covered the growing popularity of a new memes that one-upped #Tebowing…#Draping. Visualizations that mimicked the iconic Don Draper silhouettes from the show’s advertising. Mad Men found its place in our present day virtual and real-world culture.

What Would Don Draper Think?

This is indeed an exciting time to be bringing great advertising and content ideas to life. Technology enables better, more personal ways to tell stories and connect with people 24/7 wherever they are. Consumers now control the dissemination of content, make it their own, iterate and are co-creators of content. Don Draper, the controlling master of his universe, would have initially hated this development. (Just like some modern day Mad Men and Women) But in the end, Don would have enjoyed more than a few cocktails to celebrate the end results and seize the opportunity to lay down some Draper dogma at SCDP that resonates even more today.

1. Big emotional ideas are at the heart of all great advertising

2. Passionate invested people create & bring great ideas to life

3. Big ideas stand the test of time and travel well across all media

4. It still all comes down to the art of connecting with great storytelling

Sage advice that modern Mad Men would be wise to follow. No matter how much things change, some things stay the same.

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