February 2, 2017
Why we need to bring the Mad Men magic back to advertising

Why we need to bring the Mad Men magic back to advertising

Nick Welch, Business Development Director UK at ADmantX argues that it is time for advertisers to go back to basics.

What makes a great ad? There was a time when this question could be answered decisively: Don Draper, the epitome of the traditional Mad Men era, did it in one word “advertising is based on one thing: happiness”.

Back then, Madison Avenue’s leading agencies understood that consumers don’t come for ads; they come for content that offers information and entertainment they find personally meaningful — content that evokes happiness. If ads were to succeed, they had to resonate with their environment by aligning the style, tone, and subject of each message with the content it appeared beside.

Nowadays, it’s a different story. Ads on certain channels, such as TV, newspapers and Out of Home, have retained their sense of context. See IBM’s inspired billboards that double up as benches, rain shelters, ramps. But digital — the king of modern advertising — is more about chasing clicks than sparking audience interest through environmental relevance.

To achieve real engagement, it’s time we brought some of that Mad Men magic back.

Data matters, but it’s not everything

From the moment the first banner ad — AT&T’s infamous ‘You Will’ campaign — went live on Wired in 1994 there was an instant break with the past. Instead of blending with its surroundings, the ad simply asked consumers to click on it, and 44% did. This created a new tradition of ads that were all about instant interaction, which still blights today’s web experience.

Of course, sophistication has increased over the years. Digital marketers have kept one eye on relevance by attempting to make ads enticing for audiences using targeting based on a mix of behavioural, cookie-driven, and bought-in third-party data. As a result, online ads are now more in tune with individual needs, but a heavy emphasis on bottom-of-the-funnel methods such as last-click attribution means they often seem disruptive or inappropriate. Little wonder that the rise of this approach has coincided with greater ad blocking adoption.

If marketers are to produce effective digital ads, they must refocus on the bigger picture by building balanced campaigns that use data to personalise ads and match media context.

Advertising fusion: machine meets tradition

Well-established formats such as TV advertising have long been earmarked for the archives, but there is a reason they continue to thrive. Ads on TV are placed according to the programmes viewers have chosen to view, so messages are more likely to be appropriate and engaging. And this tactic can easily be adopted in the digital sphere. For example, this video ad for McDonald’s ‘McCafe’, which featured during the commercial breaks of hit TV shows ‘First Dates’ and ‘Made in Chelsea’, played on the conversational feel of the shows to create entertaining content that doesn’t feel like an ad because of its pop-culture context.

Indeed, thanks to constant innovations in advertising technology, there are numerous ways in which the lesson of environmental relevance can be applied without creating bespoke content. Advances in machine learning and contextual targeting mean that tools such as Natural Language Processing can now analyse content at page level, decipher its context, and use this insight to pair the right ad with the best media in real-time. An instant recipe for relevant, emotionally potent advertising that avoids unsafe or unsavoury placements.

While data has undoubtedly become the most powerful currency in digital advertising, the traditional emphasis on the context of media shouldn’t be ignored. Informed, large-scale targeting might have reach and efficacy, but it takes an extra sprinkle of Mad Men magic to make ads appealing, impactful, and — above all — a success.

From: IAB UK