With yesterday’s premiere of Mad Men , Madison Avenue's ad world of the 1960s appeared before our eyes again, dressed in cigar smoke and the clink of martini glasses. Despite its popular appeal, this powerful ad milieu is doomed to failure in today’s iPad-fanatic society.

Mad Men in Today's Age If the ad men of the 1960s lived today and carried the same approach to advertising, the public would immediately reject them. They would probably be the people buying flashy pop-up ads and banner ads that people close or persistently ignore. As discussed in our recent Mad Men webinar , marketing has changed and big brands do advertising differently than they did in the 1960s. At least three reasons can explain this phenomenon:

In the 1960s, Ad Agencies Were in Control
Today, Audiences Exercise More Control

One peek at an ad from the 1960s is enough to reveal the power and confidence of its message. The portrayed images and highlighted terms are mere statements telling viewers what the product is about and how it can be beneficial. They will start and end without asking for the permission of the public.

Today, however, audiences choose whether they want to hear these statements. If not actively looking for a specific product or a service, viewers will ignore them. A Person can change the TV channel, turn down the sound of the radio or close the flashy pop-up ad. Now, audiences have more control over what they watch and whom they listen to.

In the 1960s, Ad Agencies Designed Messages for People
Today, Audiences Design Messages for Ads

Oldschool ads illustrate a particular buying persona—how their ideal customer looks like, what accessories she wears and what she believes. These images are often related to power, wealth and social status. They show how a product should be used and in what ways it can improve the life of the customer.

Today, audiences are interested in designing their own messages for ads that target them. Many big brands have already included the public in the process of ad production. Ford, for instance, launched its Fiesta Project by asking individuals to share their experiences using the Ford Fiesta on social media sites and by publishing photos, videos and blog posts.

In the 1960s, Ad Agencies Saw Audiences as Mere Consumers
Today, Audiences Have More Than Purchasing Power

In the 1960s, an ad asked people to do one thing—purchase the product. The tempting images would make you crave an object and prompt you to buy it.

Today, people are not interested in simply purchasing something. They want to be recognized as individuals whose power expands beyond purchase decisions. Marketing, in response, has evolved to create opportunities for dialogue and sharing. Increasingly, companies have been calling people to action, different than buying. This is a sustainable marketing strategy that enables communities to see a specific brand as positive and trustworthy.

Watch the Webinar

Want to learn more about how marketing has changed since the 1960s? Check out the video below from our Mad Men Webinar last week.

If you have other suggestions about why Mad Men would or wouldn’t survive in today’s world of marketing, share them in the comments below!

Originally published Jul 26, 2010 11:30:00 AM, updated July 28 2017


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