Ad biz: A long way from 'Mad Men'
Today's female advertising executives don't face the same boys' club mentality that Peggy Olson of "Mad Men" has to contend with on the show. (Carin Baer/AMC)
AMC’s “Mad Men” depicts the glamorous world of the Sterling Cooper advertising agency in New York City in the 1960s. It’s all about dapper male executives puffing on Lucky Strikes while dreaming up campaigns, and wives and secretaries with flawless lipstick and matching accessories.But today’s executives span the gender and racial spectrum, create multifaceted, community-building campaigns, and are probably a lot healthier. Consumer outreach
Today, consumers have a bigger role in conceiving campaigns than “Mad Men” main character Don Draper would have guessed. Since consumers have many more choices than they did in the ’60s, advertisers must make each item seem crucial.
It’s less about eliciting emotion from consumers and more about showing how useful a product is, said Alex Denholm, account manager for Findr Interactive, an agency specializing in online campaigns. New technologies
Ad campaigns now include games, apps, blogs, Facebook pages and more. Brands are given a life and face of their own, Denholm said.
Whereas Draper seemed to be winging some of his ideas, hundreds of hours of research go into today’s campaigns. “Back then it was more fluff, more ‘shoot from the hip,’” said Denholm.
Women like Peggy Olson, the secretary-cum-copywriter in “Mad Men,” don’t have to compete as much against the scotch-guzzling “boys’ club” anymore. Although many of the older agencies are still male-dominated, most are now “gender blind,” said Nina DiSesa, the chairman of McCann New York. And the workplace is much more diverse, with people from all cultural backgrounds working
in the advertising world. Scaled-down atmosphere
Extravagant nights on the town with “cousins” and huge gifts for clients are also in the past.
Clients are much more conscious of the money they are spending. Although it’s still common to have a working lunch or dinner, clients “don’t want you to spend their money on entertaining them anymore,” DiSesa said. If anything, clients are now the ones sending gifts rather than the agencies. Last week at McCann, Glamour magazine sent over cupcakes, and a beer company kept refrigerators stocked while a campaign was being developed, a vice president of communications at the company said. Fewer indulgences
DiSesa, who has been working in advertising for more than 30 years, said the rampant drinking seen at Sterling Cooper is no longer part of her office culture. Most drinking happens after work, and smoking is forbidden in the office.
“We definitely don’t smoke as much,” said DiSesa. “I used to light a cigarette when I had one burning in the ashtray or whenever the phone rang.”
And today, tailored suits and perfectly coifed hair have been replaced by jeans and “dress casual” attire. “Everything in the show looks so sexy, so cool,” Denholm said. “It seems like everything happened at a higher level because it looked so sharp. But it was all appearance. Now, we’d rather focus on great ideas than a great appearance.”