PUBLISHED: Jul 19, 2016 5 min read

The New Mad Men: Looking Back at Advertising’s Evolution Towards Digital Marketing

Everyone in the marketing world has heard of Mad Men. They were the cool guys in the 60’s who worked on Madison Avenue and developed the modern advertising techniques that we know of today. They paved the way and brought ad copy to new levels. We admire the ingenuity of their creative, and if the television show is any indication, we like the style in which they did it with. But times change and there’s a new type of Mad Man in town.

Enter technology. Digital marketing is rounding up the advertising budget from the traditional sources with a velocity (mobile is already 30% of all commerce1) as well as method and style entirely its own. Consider the fact that by 2017 online marketing is expected to reach $61.4 billion (social media being a huge part of this2). This doesn’t necessarily mean that traditional media is dead, just that’s it’s now part of a new marketing mix.

digital marketing nyc

Gone are the two hour client lunch meetings with Manhattans in hand. Gone is the art director sitting next to the copywriter and brainstorming over paper sketches. Digital marketers can do both from one interface or excel spreadsheet now. So the question is will we miss what we are leaving behind?

Embracing Emerging Digital Marketing Technologies

Since online marketing is essentially all computer based, some complain that this takes away from the romance memorialized in the old advertising ways. More efficient? Yes. Less personal? Not really. Think of how much you’re stalked by remarketing ads.

New platforms for communicating with people continually change and marketers have to change with it. They need to be where their users are. Evolve or die. There is no sitting back on habits or resting on laurels in this fast-paced game. The old ways focused on reaching the consumer when they happened to notice. Digital marketing uses a much more precise, active, and calculated approach, all thanks to tracking codes and algorithms.

marketing mad men fedora

But with this move from television, broadcast radio, and print to online there are plenty of old-timers lamenting on how the days used to be. Today the ‘it’ men (and women) aren’t just on Madison Avenue anymore, although many of them are still in New York (Flatiron District!). I will admit that the three-martini lunches sound fun, but tinkering around with new technologies is arguably just as, if not better. For me, the face of romance in advertising hasn’t died with the move from analog to digital, it just changed faces.

Plus, it’s hard to look longingly behind when the change has affected what seems like every aspect of our lives. Mobile and social media are what everyone is looking towards now. The forward thinkers are realizing the importance of these mediums and aligning their targeting methods. For example, millennial’s purchasing habits are unique and highly influenced by referrals from their friends. Smart businesses are making sure to cater their strategies around this as well as the blending of their offline and online tactics. It’s not what many older executives are used to but is what is needed.

digital marketing strategy

Expanding Scope with Integrated Digital Strategies

Having to provide content and engagement through something like social posts is a departure for them. Many are struggling in these uncharted waters. You’re not just looking for that catch-all slogan anymore. Now you have to integrate it with colloquial quips that are customized with variations in order to reach and resonate with different segments and audiences. Thus, some businesses are finding themselves not just on a different page not, but an entirely different book.

I do wonder how the dawn of social media and digital marketing will be remembered when we look back on it as we do now with the Mad Men era. Will we remember it as a time when Mark Zuckerberg-looking types reigned supreme in converse sneakers and jeans? Or will the first two decades of the 21st century lack the same cultural panache to be iconized as our pocket-square, cigarette-loving predecessors?

It is a bit tricky though to be able to nail down a certain look since the digital marketing industry is constantly shedding its skin. Like other technology-based industries, digital marketing is programmed to keep regenerating. The mixing of technology with advertising assures that it’s always keeping up with time and trends.

If this means that the so-called romance in advertising is truly gone nowadays, that’s okay because we’ve replaced it with something that won’t go out of style: reinvention.

mad men

To be time-capsuled as a Donald Draper archetype, donning a crisp suit with a fedora affixed at a rakish slant, is pretty cool but technology has changed our lives profoundly. Change is good when it lowers your marketing costs while increasing your return! That’s hard to hate

So will we really miss the old ways we’re leaving behind? Meh. We’ve got television shows like AMC’s Mad Men to pacify our nostalgia. So I say why look at the past? Let’s look forward towards the digital marketers – the new mad men of the 21st century.

Looking to move your marketing into the 21st century? Learn more about what our team of digital-savvy mad men do in search, social, and digital every day.

  1. Bennet, Shea. “Social Media and the Death of Traditional Advertising [INFOGRAPHIC].” SocialTimes. Adweek, 5 Jan. 2015. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.
  2. Murphy, Ian P. “Mobile Makes up 30% of US E-commerce Sales.” Latest News. RetailDive, 19 Aug. 2015. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.