Who Are The Modern-Day Mad Men?

I just recently started watching Mad Men. At first I didn’t succumb to the hype, even with people telling me I’d LOVE the show (presumably because I work in advertising and know what cufflinks are). Instead my viewership began when my boss insinuated that I be ashamed for asking what Mad Men ads all over Manhattan were about. Truth be told, I was slightly worried I’d be fired if I didn’t catch on to the next joke about Sterling Cooper (which I had presumed to be a foreign car manufacturer).

Thanks to Netflix, I was able to catch up pretty quick. In addition to being pleasantly surprised at the historical accuracy of the show (you know, the stuff that’s left when you strip away the sex and alcohol), I started wondering what these characters would look like today…particularly if they worked in social media, because, you know, had to make the Big Fuel blog one way or another.

Starting with the obvious, they’d all trade in their slim ties for slim jeans and their briefcases for iPads. It’s also fair to assume that they’d all have updated hairstyles.

From the top down, Burt Cooper would be completely unchanged. Every advertising agency, social or not, has a place for an experienced, sometimes eccentric CEO. As for Roger Sterling, I’m 3 seasons into the show and I’m still not sure what he does, so we’ll move on to the illustrious Don Draper.

Aside from being the face of the show, he’s a (fictional) man who prides himself on creating great content, which is what drives conversation, which is what social media is all about. Think about it – a ubiquitous medium through which people seek out content that makes them laugh, wonder and share? That would get Draper more excited than a beautiful woman who’s not his wife. Don 2.0 would be the same brilliant, quiet-but-not-humble man whose ideas thrill his clients, only today those ideas would live and grow through social media rather than just being a glimpse in the local paper. Additionally, Don Draper is an expert at observing the different needs and wants of specific demographics. Through social media, Don 2.0 could reach niche communities and passion points. The team of copywriters that report up to the 1960’s Draper would become a team of emerging media specialists, content developers and content producers that target people based on what they love, not just where they live and how old they are.

Harry Crane would spend his time evaluating emerging tools…and believe me he’d be busy. So much so that he’d likely need a team under him. Media is so much more complicated today than it was in the 1960’s (as is everything else, except women’s hairstyles), and that’s especially true for social. There are an infinite number of resources to manage, post, survey, improve and track social media. Crane 2.0 would need someone on his team evaluating each of these, and another identifying the proper social channels for content to exist on (this person would subsequently self-proclaim him or herself the genius who figured out Pinterest). Once they’d formed their conclusions as to what’s right for what situation, they’d still need enough familiarity with the field to accommodate clients who prefer to utilize pre-determined tools.

Peter Campbell is all about data. You might not think so at first, but consider how we were introduced to the character – he stole a report on thrill seeking from Don’s trash can and presented it to the Lucky Stripes client. He later suggested approaching the African American market to increase television sales after a deeper look at sales numbers. Campbell isn’t an expert in bringing on new clients – he’s proven his struggles with that; he’s a data man, and as far as social media is concerned, nothing is a hotter topic. Campbell 2.0 would manage an entire strategy/analytics team, and in doing so would have a big role in new client acquisition. And sure enough he’d still have his issues with Don 2.0, keeping the creative work grounded to ideas that are measurable and actionable.

That being said, I wouldn’t deny that Campbell’s greatest strength is his ability to glad-hand his way out of an execution. Modern day Pete would have a new list of client issues to deal with. In the show you always hear the Mad Men referring to strong sales as a sign of creative success. However, social media is about entering a pre-existing conversation to augment other marketing tactics and promote long-term growth and success, not direct sales. Campbell 2.0 would need to focus on engagement rates, fan growth, conversation volume and sentiment, and most importantly put that in a context that his clients can grasp and appreciate.

The point I’m trying to make is that Mad Men is about an agency, and that agency could easily exist today. You’d have to update the technology, but the agency landscape, big name advertisers and even office-related issues are largely the same (so is the width of their ties, ironically). In 50 years when they film a new Mad Men, our grand children smirk at the out dated technology that is the iPhone, and they’ll see a (slightly larger) band of clever ad men who are utilizing social’s full potential and turning brands into a part of their consumers’ lives.



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  2. Craig
    04/26 2012



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