Are we 40 Years Behind, or 40 Years Ahead?


You could hardly be a planner and not ask yourself what you can learn from Mad Men.

Surely, we all want to relive the days when we were regarded as Delphic oracles by our clients, princes of capitalism by the public, and could still be blazed on Martinis by 12.30 (Oh happy days…)

Strangely, there might be a little more to it than that. In A Series, Episode 3, Don Draper kindly endorses Publicis’s global positioning….’if you don’t like it, Change the Conversation’ (Video to come later!)

‘Mad Men’ of course, came from the days before TV distorted everything. And therefore, there was more focus on ideas and on genuinely media neutral execution. You might recall that in Series 2 when they pitched for American Airlines, there was much mention of the menu cards. Something that today is often hived off to another supplier, while the ‘Advertising Agency’ is asked to focus on the ‘Advertising’.

For students of the history of advertising, it’s not surprising that in those pre-TV days there was a greater emphasis on recognisable properties. The Leo Burnett ‘critter family’, of the Jolly Green Giant, Tony the Tiger et al, to say nothing of the Marlboro Man, was largely created to give tangible standout in a world before TV storytelling.

Now, of course, we are once again past the age of TV omnipotence. With huge fragmentation, it’s hard to stand out. And once again the very definition of an ‘advertising property’ is in flux. There are some who think that ‘critters’ might make a comeback. Certainly, there’s a case for saying that now, as we are once again in many multiple media, standout is back to being important.

But, increasingly, another school is gaining the upper hand – which is to say that critters, by their nature are owned by a company not by the customer, and that something different is required. More like an epicentre, or an eco-system, which guide people into being part of the brand.

Examples like the Converse Gallery, Project Refresh, or even branded utilities like Nike+ give a centre to the brand’s activity that acts like a black hole – drawing in the people who want to interact with it.

Our feeling is that this needn’t necessarily be purely digital, although as time goes on, most of them are likely to have a digital component. But, the shape of epicentres might be driven by the things other than the brand that the customers are interested in. For example, Maliboom-Boom is our project for Malibu. Not too surprisingly, it’s epicentre is music, with a digital radio¬† station. Likewise, our award winning and highly effective project for British Army Recruitment, uses gaming as an epicentre.

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