Why TV’s Mad Men Would Fail Today

by | Mar 20, 2011 | Best Practices, Blog, Blog Archive | 0 comments

The hit TV show Mad Men is TV’s look back at the world of traditional marketing. In the 1960’s, a handful of white, male ad agency executives in New York controlled nearly everything the public saw and heard in the media. They showed us glamorous images, and told us what the product was and how it was going to help us – and we responded by buying exactly what they were selling.

That was then. Now, anyone foolish enough to try the same approach would fail miserably. There are three key reasons for that. To start with, consumers have choices that our grandparents never dreamed could exist. Back then, the only choice was to get up and leave the room when an annoying commercial came on. Now, thanks to DVR’s, pop-up blockers, and spam filters, no one has to see a marketing message that they don’t want to see.

Second, the number of communications channels available to connect companies and consumers has never been greater. TV’s Mad Men never dreamed of the immediate, personalized messages possible through the Web, social media, email, and mobile devices. They’d have killed for the kind of personalized, on-demand delivery of video and print messages that we take for granted.

Third, and most importantly, today’s consumers are anything but passive recipients of corporate marketing messages. They’re active participants in the marketplace – posting reviews on websites like Yelp, Tweeting their friends to ask for recommendations on car insurance, and posting the results of their conversations with customer support on Facebook as they happen.

Today’s marketplace is no longer connected by a one-way communications channel.

Thanks to the Internet, we’re all linked through an interactive super highway where marketers have dozens of channels to monitor, manage, and create the right brand image, all while consumers are creating their own messages about your brand.

As the number of communications channels available to consumers and marketers alike has skyrocketed, marketing budgets have shrunk. Worse, the economic meltdown of the past few years left customers feeling betrayed by many of the businesses and industries they once trusted. The financial crisis of 2008-2009 left consumers with some serious trust issues according to the annual “Trust Barometer” study just released by the giant PR firm Edelman.

According to the study, only about a quarter of Americans trust banks (25%), insurance companies (26%), and financial services companies (25%) to “do what is right”. The news media fares even worse with just 22% of Americans ranking them as trustworthy. So who do consumers trust? People they know, especially those who live nearby. One of the reasons for this is the fact that anyone with access to the Internet can now post their own reviews, Tweet their opinions, and share their feelings and experiences with businesses in real time.

It’s the exact opposite of the situation in which the Mad Men thrived. Customers are the ones with the power – and they aren’t going to give it back.

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