Bits & Pieces?
In just a few days, Mad Men is (finally) returning with new episodes. As we get ready to travel back in time to the 1960’s, I started to think about what’s changed in the world of advertising and what’s stayed the same. Has the advertising world of Mad Men ever really gone away?
The rise of billable hours
In the 1960’s, advertising agencies made most of their money from media commissions. Today, agencies increasingly depend on billable hours to keep the doors open and paychecks from bouncing. Which leads us to…
You can’t do a full day’s work after a three-martini lunch. That’s not a big problem if you get big media commissions. It is a problem if agency revenue comes from billable hours or value/performance-based billing
The elements of a campaign
The very act of reading this blog on our agency’s website illustrates a fundamental change in advertising since the 1960’s –– even since the early 1990’s. In the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Creative Department, a campaign consisted of television, radio, print and outdoor. Today, our campaigns have all of those mass media elements plus online components, social media strategies, smart phone apps, experiential marketing and guerrilla executions.
Don and Peggy were creating one-way communications that pushed information out to people. Today, thanks to technology, we are creating two-way conversations. Now, we both create content and curate content created by consumers.
When we first entered the world of Sterling Cooper, everyone in creative and account service had a secretary. (Can you picture Don Draper making copies?) Today, it’s increasingly rare for even a partner to have a personal assistant. It’s the DIY era.
Thankfully, overt sexism has gone the way of Joan’s girdle. Today, women aren’t let go when they get married or have a baby, and the majority of us are not called “Sweetie.” Now, women of all ages and family status make valuable contributions in almost every agency in every discipline, and some agencies have women in top leadership positions.
Advertising has made huge strides in improving gender equality, but, like every industry, it still needs to improve. For example, women are not equally represented in the top creative leadership roles or in judging panels at award shows. This equally applies to minorities.
What’s stayed the same?
Advertising is still a competitive field that attracts some of the same personality types represented on the show. You’ll still meet Pete Campbells who will do just about anything to get ahead. We still have Joans who understand the system and masterfully work every angle as much as they can. We still have Peggys –– young, ambitions, smart women who defy traditional gender roles. And, as the grapevine can attest, we still hear whispers of illicit affairs. (Then again, what industry doesn’t?)
I found a conversation with Berny Brownstein, Chairman and Chief Creative officer of the Brownstein Group, about what’s changed and what’s stayed the same since the Mad Men era.
At the most fundamental level, advertising hasn’t changed. Berny Brownstein said it best: “Our job is still to motivate people. We motivated through creativity, emotional copy and dramatic graphics. That is still prevalent today.” Hear the whole interview at:
I think this is why so many of us in this industry connect so deeply with the show. Our bond with all the people at Sterling Cooper is our work. Just like Don, Pete, Peggy and Roger we are all in the business of selling good ideas that are based on truth and authentic emotions.
How do you think advertising agency life has changed in the past half century? How do you think it’s stayed the same? We’d love to read your comments.
Women-only poetry reading for local non-profit web video to be held on March 25 from 9 am – 3 pm at Carte Blanche, located at 1024 South 5th Street, Milwaukee, WI 53204.
Calling all female actors, spoken word artists and real people with a passion to be on camera!
We are looking for women to audition to read a poem (approximately two minutes in length) on camera with the potential of being used within a web video for a major local non-profit organization. The readings will take place on March 25 from 9 am – 3 pm at Carte Blanche, located at 1024 South 5th Street, Milwaukee, WI 53204.
You do not need to be a professional to audition, and we encourage women of all ages, heights, weights and ethnicities to attend. Snacks will be provided!
To schedule a 20-minute performance block and receive a copy of the poem to practice, email Andi at email@example.com.
We ask that you plan to arrive 15 minutes prior to your appointment and familiarize with the poem prior to filming with us. There is no guarantee your reading will make it into the final cut.
We all come up with good ideas and executions all the time. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t make it in advertising for very long. Every once in a while, good work becomes great work. That’s the work that wins awards, grabs the attention of the media and may even become a part of pop culture.
What factors differentiate the merely good from the great? A lot of variables affect the outcome (client relationships, agency culture, budget, attitude – just to name a few), but two play a larger role in success than all the others: the idea and the execution.
You can have a fantastic idea and an OK execution, and your final product will be good, not great.
Or you can have an OK idea and a fantastic execution, and your final product will be good, not great
You will only have a great final product if the idea and the execution are both outstanding.
Here’s an example. Dolly Parton had a fantastic idea for a song.
Her execution of the song was good, but it wasn’t great.
(I may not have loved her version of this song. But that doesn’t mean I won’t always love Dolly.)
It took Whitney Huston’s execution to elevate the song to new heights.
By collaborating, Dolly and Whitney achieved success that went beyond what each could have reached alone.
This song is a lot like advertising. Except in our field, the person who most often gets all the credit and glory is the one who comes up with the idea. But, as we’ve just heard, the idea is only half of what makes something exceptional. Even if you don’t come up with the idea, it’s important to remember that the execution is just as important. You can take a great deal of pride in what you can do to transform good into great.
As you get your next assignment, be inspired by Dolly and Whitney. (Just don’t sing to your partner too much. I’ve been told that’s annoying.)
It’s difficult to imagine living in a world without instant access to information at our fingertips. The Internet has not only drastically impacted the efficiency of our everyday lives, but it’s also changing the way our brains work.
A recent study conducted at Columbia University explored the relationship between human memory and technology, challenging the myth that our access to the Internet is making us mentally lazier.
The study, referred to as “The Google Effect,” confirmed that the use of the Google search engine alters our brains and changes the way we organize and recall information. Instead of relying on our rote memory (learning through pattern or repetition) to remember information, we rely heavily on external sources to find the information for us.
The Internet essentially serves as a form of transactive memory, or information that is stored collectively outside of our personal memory that we can call upon at any time. Knowing that we can rely on Google to access information instantly, we often outsource our rote memory search to Google and eliminate the need for our brain to do the job.
Historically, humans have relied on other information reservoirs (e.g. other people) to help them out in recalling information. Prior to the existence of the Internet and search engines, people relied heavily on “group memories,” or memories passed on from person to person within groups. Today, Google acts as the primary group memory source. We’ve become primed to defer to technology when tasked with recalling information or asked a difficult question. Thus, we have lower rates of recalling information based on our own memory, but enhanced recall for where we can access information.
Simply put, if we know where we can find the information we seek, we are much less likely to put forth the effort store it in our own brain.
One of the key experiments within the Google Effect study asked participants to type 40 pieces of trivia info a computer. Half of the subjects believed the information would be saved on the computer, and half were told that the items they typed would be erased. Those that thought the information would be deleted were more likely to remember the trivia, as they believed that would not be able to access the information at a later time if they needed to recall it, indicating that people are much less likely to put forth effort in remembering information when they know where they can find it instead.
Further delving into how we use our memory in conjunction with our technological resources, researchers were curious as to what we think of first when asked to recall a piece of information. Do we think about the specific memory first and dig into our rote memory to find it, or do we immediately jump to where we can go to find out?
Participants were asked whether there are any countries with only one color on their national flag. What surprised researchers was that participants were better able to recall the folder on the computer where they had previously stored the information, instead of the actual information itself.
Remembering where you can find information, rather than the information itself, is referred to as our transactive memory. Our brains rely on the Internet for memory in a very similar way as we rely on friends, family, co-workers and others to recall specific memories and information. We remember less through knowing information itself than by knowing where information can be found.
The use of search engines suggests that human memory is reorganizing where it turns to find information. We are adapting to new technologies rather than solely relying on our rote memory. With new technology constantly being introduced and integrated into our daily lives, our brains evolve as we learn to use it. Our brains will continue to evolve over time in response to the environmental stimuli that it is presented with.
While the Internet’s effects on memory are still largely unexplored territory, the Internet has become a primary external storage system, saving us time and freeing up parts of our brain to use for other, more creative endeavors. It is easier to learn and understand complex concepts when we don’t feel pressured to have to remember everything. By freeing up our mental RAM, we increase the speed by which we process other information.
Betsy Sparrow, psychologist and lead researcher on the Google Effect study, was quoted saying, “We’re not thoughtless, empty-headed people who don’t have memories anymore, but we are becoming particularly adept at remembering where to go to find things. And that’s kind of amazing.”
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