The Mad Men Have It Right

Sorry for going dark….Red Slice was enjoying Hawaii!

Not sure who is a fan of Mad Men like I am – and don’t give me a spoiler alert on the season premiere from Sunday, as I have recorded it. But aside from the killer outfits, in-office bars, chain smoking, and “kitchy” sexism, there is a lot to be learned from this show about marketing overall. The conversations on client creative and strategy are spot on. And the show does a great job of branding itself, as well – check out this post from the NY managing director of Landor Associates, a premiere branding firm, on how Mad Men as a show is also an authentic brand.

In last season’s finale, ad man Don Draper gives a great line to the Brits who have just merged with his agency. They say they want to focus more on selling media space as there are more profits to be earned there, to which Don retorts, “I don’t sell advertising. I sell products.” We could all learn a lesson here.

I’m as much a softie for a good, smart, delightful ad as the next person. I eagerly watch the Super Bowl ads as much as the game itself. Working at an ad agency only fueled this appreciation. When an ad hits just the right tone, promotes just the right brand, and really resonates, I just go nuts. It’s a good story, well told, in 30 seconds.

But at the end of the day, we all need to keep in mind something a good creative director friend once told me, “If it doesn’t make people open their wallets and buy something, then it’s not a good ad.” We can discuss the merits of production value, humor, water-cooler-worthiness, quirkiness, and meaning until the cows come home (and I have). But while all of that is entertaining from a story-telling perspective, if it doesn’t boost sales, I don’t care how many awards it wins.

Those that get it really “right” are the ones that combine the delight, the meaning, the “coolness”, the intrigue of the story into something that actually impacts the bottom line.

Who out there do you think is doing this today?

Red Slice is a branding, marketing and communications consultancy that helps organizations tell their story. We provide both strategic and tactical marketing support to small and mid-size companies. Let us help you engage, inform, and delight your target audience and keep them coming back for more. Visit us at

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