Mar 132012
 

Article first published as Mad Men: Back (Finally). And Back To The Future. on Blogcritics.

Compelling Content And Characters Transcend Time And Place.


Mad Men
 Season 5 is upon us and we’re ready to head back to the ’60s—the Golden Age of advertising, decades before the internet, digital communications and social media. Mad Men is quintessential 1960s Madison Avenue, yet the show has been enthusiastically adopted and adapted by today’s digitally enabled viewers as well as modern Mad Men (and Women). While the narrative of Mad Men is firmly entrenched in the ‘60s, the show enjoys a thriving present life in both the real and virtual worlds of its fans. These connections flow from an enduring interest in the ad world, a fascination with the ’60s and, perhaps most of all, the deep, character driven, storytelling prowess of the show. Compelling content brilliantly executed. And now, Google has enabled a way for us to experience the iconic advertising of the Mad Men era interpreted through digital eyes – a tribute to the creativity of the real Mad Men who lived it. Compelling content brilliantly re-imagined.

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As expected, the show set up its own @MadMen Twitter account and it has a nice following. But something unusual happened as Mad Men took hold. Independent of the show’s marketing campaign, MadMen characters started popping up on Twitter with their “personal” accounts. We got to meet @dondraper, @peggyolson and the rest of the cast in real time. These “unauthorized” Mad Men Twitter personalities were created and painstakingly brought to life and cared for every day by dedicated fans and followers. Fictional characters from the ‘60s actually live a fan generated parallel life in the present day. Their digital personas became intertwined and interconnected with their lives on the show and a Mad Men character driven Twitter sub-culture evolved.

Interestingly, when these “unauthorized” Twitter accounts popped up, the network acted like they were stuck in the ‘60s and moved quickly to shut them down. But reaction from viewers to bring them back was so strong that the decision was reversed and they live today in our digital lives. Don Draper’s sobering welcome to the power of social media.

Creativity Inspires Cultural Infusion

Beyond these personas on Twitter there are fan generated Facebook Fan pages, stunning Pinterest boards, countless blogs, You Tube Videos, etc. The scope and creativity of this fan adoption and adaptation is impressive. Mad Men infographics visualize a range of facts and information from achronicle of events across each season to a Wired magazine “who slept with who” bed hopping show all. There are “What Would Don Draper Do” articles about everything from problem solving to Occupy to advertising the Olympics. An article in The Huffington Post covered the growing popularity of a new meme that one-ups #Tebowing…#Draping. These are fan created visualizations that mimic the iconic Don Draper silhouettes from the show’s advertising that reside on tumblr.

A recent Wall Street Journal article chronicled a wide array of planned virtual and real world events to mark the return of the show. There’s even a special “Mad Men In The City” package being offered by The Roosevelt Hotel where Don Draper stayed after his wife Betty threw him out. Mad Men has found its place in our present day virtual and real world culture.

Google Meets & Morphs The Ads Of Mad Men

All of this is exciting, entertaining and fun. But as an ad guy and a Mad Man, one of the most interesting and unique events that captured my attention isn’t about the show. It’s a very special project that celebrates the advertising campaigns that were created in the Mad Men era. Google’s Project Rebrief: “A grand experiment whereby Google partnered with five of the brightest “old-school” advertising legends to re-imagine their most iconic creative work from a half-century ago for the modern web.”

Thanks to this marvelous undertaking by Google, we get to see famous campaigns for Coke, Volvo, Avis and Alka Seltzer re-imagined and executed for the digital age. What makes this especially wonderful is that Google pairs up the original Mad Men that created the ads with Google’s young, bright, energetic creative staff. We watch them work, interact and ideate. Magic happens. Thanks Google, Amil Gargano, Howie Cohen, Bob Pasqualina, Paula Green and Harvey Gabor for making this digital Mad Men adventure possible. Shining Lights…still.

What Would Don Draper Think

This is indeed an exciting time to be bringing great advertising ideas to life. Technology enables better, more personal ways to tell stories and connect with people 24/7 wherever they are. The Project Rebrief melding of traditional and digital ideation and media creates a very special story and a captivating journey that even Don Draper would have loved. Sure, Don would have been a bit skeptical at first, just like some of the real life Mad Men and Women in this series. But in the end, Don would have enjoyed more than a few cocktails to celebrate the end results and seize the opportunity to lay down some Draper dogma at SCDP:
1. Big emotional ideas are at the heart of all great advertising
2. Passionate invested people create & bring great ideas to life
3. Big ideas stand the test of time and travel well across all media
4. It still all comes down to the art of great storytelling

Sage advice that modern Mad Men would be wise to follow. No matter how much things change, some things stay the same.

Season 5. About time.

 

 

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May 302011
 

Article first published as Unleashing the Soft Impact of Knowledge Sharing on Blogcritics.

Creating Commitment, Connection And Community

Technology and the people driving it are changing the way we see and experience just about everything, especially the dissemination of knowledge in meetings, events, seminars and classrooms. Over the past few years  I’ve been honored to speak at a number of events… everything from digital marketing summits, social media conferences, event planning think tanks, American Heart Association global conferences, Asset-Based Thinking workshops to local town hall meetings with moms and kids. And now, I am fortunate to be teaching at USC’s Marshall School of Business creating lectures and engaging students in the digital classroom. For me, these experiences have been an invigorating, ever expanding exposure to a new world of communications, information exchange and a re-discovering the art of personal persuasion in a digital age.

The Gift Of Positive Disruption

After almost five decades in the marketing communications business and at the ripe young age of 67, I find myself in awe of and thoroughly energized by how the nature of knowledge based meetings, conferences and facilitated learning has changed. As a communications person I was fascinated by (and sometimes leery of) the pervasive influence of technology…it is everywhere, every time and with everyone. Live-streaming, iPads, open laptops, video, i-reporting, real-time blogs, tweet streams, back-channels, podcasts, blackberries, personalized video channels, i-phones, webinars, etc. are now standard fare. As an asset-based thinker, rather than being intimidated and threatened by these tech tools and rapid-fire changes, I looked at them as challenges and powerful positive gifts of disruption and jumped on board. My leeriness about depersonalization, disconnectedness and distraction dissolved into a firm embrace of these tools as assets and a belief that, when properly utilized, all this tech is helping create richer, deeper, more connected and sustainable knowledge sharing.

Technology Enables. People Experience.

Over the years we’ve come to expect the dissemination of information and knowledge to be continually enabled and enhanced by the latest and greatest technology. What’s changed now is that this impressive array of technology is also in the hands (literally) of recipients, attendees and casual observers. This means that everyone involved…teachers, technicians, organizers, facilitators, speakers, recipients, support media….everyone, has the opportunity to raise their game and their expectations. Knowledge management is now as much about listening as it is broadcasting and engaging as it is educating. We’ve all heard the term “listen harder” which implies narrowing your focus and blocking out distraction. Enlightened use of technology enables  “listening  softer” so we can actually pay deeper attention to a person and listen with our eyes and hearts as well as our ears. Everyone involved hears, speaks and feels more. Connected, engaged communities emerge.

Inside The Softer Side Of Technology

Earlier this month I was invited by Sonic Foundry, a leading edge rich media webcasting, lecture capture and knowledge management company, to deliver a keynote address at their 5th annual Unleash Conference in Madison Wisconsin. Each year they bring together over two hundred of the best and the brightest in their fields to look ahead to what’s next in technology, network and share ideas and best practices. Attending the Unleash event gave me an even greater appreciation for the power and promise of technology, reminded me of the responsibility we all have to use and share it wisely and provided the motivation for this article. It was an honor to have the opportunity to talk to the attendees about Asset-Based Thinking and how it could help them make the most of the rapid change influencing their professional and personal lives. Here’s a link to my talk enabled by their Mediasite technology.

The practical knowledge I gained through the presentations, workshops and individual discussions will make my work easier and better. What impressed me most, however, was something that went well beyond the amazing technology and expertise present at the conference. What stood out was the emotional side of the experience. The energy and passion of the people behind the technology, their sense of mission and higher purpose and the open, collaborative community of sharing they created was wonderful. It was all about people creating,developing and refining ideas together. A wonderful example of technology being in service to people and their ideas, not vice versa.  Asset-Based Thinking at its best. Sonic Foundry’s mission statement captures it well.

Helping create the libraries of tomorrow with technology that doesn’t compound the world’s information overload. We are working to put a human face on all knowledge online, and we believe the world will be more knowledgeable, more connected as a result.

Technology driven change presents opportunity and challenge. The opportunity to engage people in communication experiences (large or small) that are interactive, iterative, participatory, shared and sustainable. The challenge is to remember that great ideas and powerful content make technology its most meaningful and valuable.

This quote from advertising pioneer and creative genius Bill Bernbach sums it up best.

An idea can turn to dust or magic depending upon the creative talent that rubs against it.

Now. Unleash the Magicians!

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May 102010
 

HOW SOCIAL MEDIA IS CHANGING MADISON AVENUE

No, I’m not Don Draper from Mad Men. But I’m an ad guy. I teach advertising in the grad school at USC and, yes, I am a twitterholic, @hankwasiak.

My career in advertising started in the Mad Men era and I am fortunate to still be doing what I love at The Concept Farm, a very cool creative company located on .85 acres in the heart of Chelsea in New York City. I’ve gone from a Mad Man to a Happy Farmer and along the way have lived through just about every shift and change in the advertising business over the past five decades.

And, coincidentally I’m right in the middle of putting together a syllabus for my class, picking a text book, and selecting case studies. It became obvious pretty quickly that the way business schools teach advertising has not yet caught up with actuality and, in many ways, is a metaphor for the mindset of Madison Avenue today. All of this has mashed up in to a point of view and perspective on where social media is taking the advertising business.

The Times They Are a Changing — Fast

Unlike the conventional doom and gloom wisdom about the death of advertising as we know it, I can honestly say that my enthusiasm for the future of advertising has never been higher. This enthusiasm and optimism is fueled by social media. Social media is the game changer, the killer app that is reshaping Madison Avenue at its very core in three major ways:

  1. The fundamentals of the marketing mix
  2. The nature of how advertising is supposed to work
  3. The measurement metrics of success

This is big time change. It’s powerful, exciting stuff. It’s all happening at once and it’s happening fast. Now is the time for Madison Avenue to re-invent itself by focusing on the endless upside possibilities opened up by social media. And, to do this, today’s Mad Men must change the way they see social media because the term social media has becomes a self-limiting frame of reference. To put what’s next into perspective, it’s helpful to look back.

Back To The Future? No Way

My first job in advertising was in 1965 at an ad agency called Benton & Bowles as one of those account men you see at Sterling Cooper on Mad Men. I often get asked if the show is an accurate reflection of what it was really like. In most respects it is. Sterling Cooper is eerily similar to Benton & Bowles. The client situations, office dynamics, and, of course, the drinking, sex, and smoking are all spot on. Except when I arrived, most of us were smoking something a lot more stimulating than Lucky Strikes.

Mad Men is a great show that beautifully captures a time when Madison Avenue was seen as a trendsetting arbiter of American values and these Mad Men showed us who we wanted to be and told us what to buy. And, for the most part, we loved it. While it’s clear that Madison Avenue as Don Draper knew it is gone forever, the fundamentals of the advertising business have remained essentially the same, until now. Just about the time that advertising was catching up with how to harness the power of an Internet-driven digital media world, along comes social media. Social media has created a “watershed moment” for Madison Avenue because of these fundamental systemic changes.

The Pillars of the Marketing Mix: The 4 Ps

Four fundamental pillars of the marketing mix have been embedded in marketing plans and practices since the 1960s: Product. Price. Place. Promotion. As relevant as ever. So, when social media came along the conventional wisdom was to see it as a new form of advertising — another way to “reach” consumers. While treating social media as a subset of advertising might have been okay initially, it grossly undervalues social media’s real role today. So, if social media is more than media, what has it become? Social media has morphed into the fifth pillar “P” of the marketing mix: People. Today a marketer must have a People Strategy developed in concert with its Product Price, Place, and Promotion strategies.

Time Magazine named YOU as its Person of The Year in 2006. The power and potential of what that cover foretold is just now coming into its own. When People Strategy becomes as fundamentally important as the other four Ps,it changes the way you strategize, organize, monetize, and commercialize a business. This isn’t semantics. It’s fundamental change.
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, is a person I admire. He is a visionary who saw this potential long before everyone else and he nailed it with this quote: “Embarking on social media strategy to help with marketing is like embarking on a facial muscle strategy to help with smiling.”

The 5 Ps. It is fundamental systemic change.

The Advertising Communication Model Has Expanded And Stretched

For decades, Mad Men have used a simple, four-letter shorthand for what advertising has to accomplish to be effective: AIDA Attention. Interest. Desire. Action. Not bad but then but not good enough today. Social media has added two other dimensions that are critical to success. The first is the letter “E” for Engagement. Consumers welcome getting involved with products and brands on many levels — on their own terms. People want to talk amongst themselves before they interact with a brand or a business.

The other dimension is the letter “S” for Sustainability. Today ideas and messages must be crafted to also encourage shareability so they sustain themselves well beyond their initial delivery and media contexts.

So now the shorthand should look something like this: A+IDEAS. They are connected and interdependent. Unless creative ideas and programs organically lend themselves to this construct they will miss the mark.

A New Success Ethic Has Changed the Metrics of Effectiveness

And again, social media has been the catalyst for much of this change. This really came into dramatic focus for me earlier this month when I had the opportunity to be a real-time blogger embedded at the World Business Forum in New York City. CEO after CEO and some of the best global thought leaders talked about the future of business. Here are the relevant highlights.

The hard assets that are traditionally used to gauge the strength and value of a business are as important as ever. However, they are the “table stakes” of today — the costs of entry. Soft Assets are increasingly seen as the business differentiators of the future. Here’s a sampling of the descriptions and comments that permeated their talks and filled the blogs.

  • Values based business – culture
  • Purpose driven marketing – passion
  • Trust built on transparency – truth
  • Corporate responsibility that fosters collaboration
  • “Healthy” companies that act “human”
  • Motivation that creates aspiration

If these words and expressions sound familiar, they should. This IS the language of social media. And, these differentiators are changing the way socially responsible businesses see “profit.” Now there are three tiers of profit that matter.

  • Dollar profit – The fiscal performance of the business
  • Emotional profit – The rewards for employees and stakeholders
  • Greater good profit – The positive impact on the community

These are major, important, enlightened shifts that are taking place in big, medium, and small businesses everywhere. Mad Men can lead by listening to them.

Mad Men&Women 2.0

This convergence of changes brought about by social media ( the five pillar “Ps”, the new communications model, enlightened metrics of success) has created a perfect storm for a mindset makeover on Madison Avenue. My top five thought starters:

Spend as much time talking with people as creating ads to reach them and shift from shouting and selling to sharing and helping.

Suppress the urge to say “we can do it all” and deliver the best of what you do best. Protect the integrity of your ideas, not your “turf.”

Embrace collabetition. Collaborate with like-minded competitors to create and deliver A+IDEAS for clients. Fair compensation will follow from value added.

Move from a master of the universe mentality to thinking like a maestro conducting a symphony orchestra of communication “instruments.”

The quality of an ad agency’s culture and values should be as visible and award-winning as its work.

Don Draper would not like what he sees on Madison Avenue today. But I sure do. We’re on the cusp of big change. As with most disruptive change, innovation and bold new thinking usually come from the fringe and then go mainstream. I’m very excited and grateful to be part of what’s next. And, I can’t wait to get in front of my class at USC and see what they have to teach me.

Also, we are launching a new regular feature series in the Video section of Blogcritics called Mad Men Confidential featuring real Mad Men commenting on advertising and AMC’s Mad Men TV show. Informative. Entertaining. Provocative. True.

Check it out and stay tuned.

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