Category Archives: Mad Men

Squeezing Mad Men for more ads. Oh, the irony.

One of the great debates inside advertising circles is how much is too much? The typical American has the TV on for 5 hours and 9 minutes each day, of which 27% is paid advertising. Do the math and that’s 1 hour and 23 minutes of TV spots per day, or at 30 seconds per spot, 166 commercials a day.

Enter Mad Men. The Daily is reporting a catfight between the creator of the show, Matthew Weiner, and Cablevision executives, who are said to want to trim the length of Mad Men by 3 minutes to insert, yes, 6 more 30-second commercials. The AMC cable channel, you see, is part of Rainbow Media Holdings, a gem that Cablevision reportedly hopes to spin off soon in an IPO. Improving the financial performance of a business before going public is standard procedure, so what’s a few more spots?

Alas, Mad Men’s beautiful content would have to be cut. It is hard to believe that back in the 1960s U.S. TV viewers only saw 9 minutes of commercials per hour, vs. today’s 16-18 minutes. We love advertising, yes we do … but with 166 TV spots hitting you each day, how many more can possibly work?

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Mad Men’s Playboy takeover

The hit AMC show Mad Men did more than advertise on this week — it took over the site, recasting the photos and other content to an early 1960s’ flashback. The main page featured drink mixes from the ad days of yore, and the archives focused on the old issues back when bunny ears got guys riled.

This is no silly case study: the mixing of advertising with editorial content is becoming common as publishers and broadcasters struggle amid declining advertising revenues. News Corp. COO Chase Carey said recently that “we have an ad-supported business model that doesn’t work,” namely that as consumers shift to the internet and social media, online advertising fails to keep up with old 30-second spot dollars. The main broadcast networks have sold $1 billion less in primetime upfronts this year, down from $9 billion in 2008, and all television revenues are expected to be off 10-15% in the coming year.

Advertising still works, but measurement methodologies are vital to identify the waste. Old forecasts of impressions, GRPs and CPMs aren’t enough as consumers start tuning out with new technologies. Don’t believe us; just look at Playboy.

What Don Draper can teach you about viral marketing

When the producers of Mad Men researched American advertising of the 1960s, they modeled their protagonist Don Draper after the real-world ad exec Rosser Reeves. Reeves, as you may know, was a wildly successful pioneer of TV advertising who created the concept Unique Selling Proposition. The USP, like most buzzwords, has become misunderstood in marketing circles but means three simple things:

1. Your ad must convey a specific benefit.
2. The benefit must be something that competitors cannot match.
3. The benefit has to be strong enough to attract masses of consumers.

USPs are different than brand imagery. They are pointed, often slogans, and can even be annoying. Reeves did a 59-second spot for Anacin that everyone agreed was grating, yet it tripled sales for the headache medicine over 7 years. Reeves died in 1984 but you can still hear his work today with the slogan M&Ms “melt in your mouth, not in your hand.”

So what do old ad theories teach us about new viral campaigns?

Uniqueness. Think of every viral fad of the past decade and what they had in common was a Unique Selling Proposition. Subservient Chicken. Lonelygirl15. Snakes on a Plane. The Facebook Whopper Sacrifice. The problem with most other attempts is they have no USP — and in social networks that originality is just as important to success as with traditional media.

We thought of Reeves last night commenting on Scott Henderson’s blog about cause marketing, a new fad among marketers trying to go viral on social networks. As consumers spend more time networking with each other online, and less receiving traditional ads, marketers are desperately testing new ways to become part of the conversation. Paid posts simply buy in (and we’ve challenged the ethics in BusinessWeek here). Cause marketing is more subtle, using the delivery of food or a donation to try to build buzz about a brand (like Scott Henderson’s own Tyson campaign here).

Problem is, cause marketing is becoming a commodity — and as more marketers jump on this bandwagon, the uniqueness and resonance fade.

Beyond the ethical debates of paid posts or cause promotions, the real question for advertisers squeezing into social media conversations is: will it work? If your missive is not original, something competing messages don’t offer and something strong enough to be passed to masses, it’s not likely. Or as Don Draper said about a cigarette being promoted: “It’s toasted.”