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Oh Don Draper

Posted on March 5, 2013 and read 3,239 times

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michaelw Oh Don DraperMichael Weiss
Managing Director

Oh Don Draper. How we envy you. Your corner office. Your ability to make clients swoon with your dapper attire and witty banter. Your resilient lungs and liver. The fact that you and your buddies can get away with behavior that would make any modern day HR executive cringe. How we wish to be like you. To land the big deals. To make TV and Radio ads. To launch campaigns with no way to measure their effectiveness. How awesome would that be?

But it’s 2013 and not 1964. We are not as lucky as Don Draper. We have multiple tactics to manage and must prove an ROI for every campaign we launch.  It gets harder and harder every day. The reality is that Don Draper is dead. In fact, he died a long time ago. What killed him? His inability to innovate and change. Don Draper was confined.  He simply did not have the means to be a real-time ad guy. His work was fixed in time. He was unable to move as quickly as brands want to and more importantly, as quickly as the customers expect. And because of that he became obsolete and died.

We have heard it time and time again – the consumer is in charge. Brands are losing control of their messaging. And we’ve all seen the numbers: 1 billion on Facebook; 200 million on Twitter; 72 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute. And the mind-blowing, intangible list of stats goes on and on.

What helped kill Don Draper was content and the ability for brands to have conversations with their customers. Sure, content has been around for centuries. I remember when we used to call content ‘Movies’ and ‘TV.’ But can you imagine Don Draper being pitched the idea of user-generated content? If he wasn’t dead already, that idea alone would have made his head explode.

We talk about the Mad Men as a relic of the 60’s, but truth be told so many of us continue to act the same way we did 50 years ago. Maybe not so much boozing during the day or smoking, but we still believe we can persuade people to buy products with solid creative and witty copy.  I am not one of those that believe TV and Print are dead, but too often we (agencies) pour all of our resources into them because it is all we know.  It’s easy and well…. it’s fun! What’s sexy about making sense of Google Analytic reports?

The truth is that we have to stop focusing on Interruptive Marketing. Don and his cohorts made ads that got in our way.  People didn’t ask to see or hear these ads, they just happened. From the 60’s all the way to the 80’s people accepted it. It was the only way we could get people’s attention.  But the Internet came along and brands had more ways to reach, engage and bother the consumer. In the beginning people were bombarded with Banner Ads, Pop-Ups and Spam. It became overwhelming. Next came social media, savvy email campaigns, and YouTube, which have enabled brands to act like real people. And, it’s working. Now people are asking for information. They are searching for it. They are allowing brands to have a conversation with them. The golden age of Permission Based Marketing has arrived.

In 1965 the average consumer saw just under 75 ads per day. Today that number is over 3,000. Brands are in a constant state of pitching. And the consumer is okay with it.  Why? Because they have the tools to control it.  According to a TV Guide Survey in 2011, 96% of DVR owners skip commercials. I know, I thought the number was low too. Who are the 4% that still watch the commercials? This trend is going to continue and we have to ask ourselves why do we keep creating TV ads if people are just going to skip them?

We have to create content that engages. But more importantly we have to place that content where it will reach our audiences. We have to know their content consumption habits and be one step ahead of them.

Most brands look at their competitors as other brands like them. For example, Coke vs. Pepsi. But as my good friend Robert Rose said the other day, “Your competitors are not your competitors.” We are fighting for attention with videos like Gangham Style; Video Bloggers like Jenna Marbles and Apps like Angry Birds. This is where our audiences are. They are not watching scheduled TV shows and movies. They are choosing and curating their content on their own terms. If agencies continue to sit on their laurels they are going to lose this battle and silly music videos like Gangham Style will continue to rack up billions of views.

Be daring like Oreo. Be original like Red Bull. Be forward thinking like Coca-Cola. These brands and the agencies behind them are making the rest of us look old and stodgy. They are not Mad Men; they are Made Men.

Michael Weiss, Managing Director of figure18, a Content Marketing Agency, recently released his new eBook Don Draper Is Dead. He’s a bit passionate about this subject.


  • Copywriter Northern Ireland

    I disagree. The opportunities to advertise have changed but consumer behaviour has not. People didn’t want to see ads in the 60′s and they don’t want to see them now. Just because we have new ways of ‘conversing’ with them doesn’t mean they’re any more inclined to give a shit about our brand.

    In fact, 60% of people admit to only connecting with a brand’s social media account to try to get something for free in return. Look at Pepsi, they pumped all their money into driving up engagement via social media in 2010, at the expense of traditional advertising. Technically it worked – they got millions of social media fans. But how did it translate into sales? For the first time in their history they lost their #2 market position, dropping to #3 behind Diet Coke.

    There are more opportunities than ever before, but the game hasn’t changed as much as many think.




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