It is interesting to see the press coverage and reactions to the start of season 4 of the most successful advertising related mainstream production ever. There is the NYT interactive feature of the events of the era and their representation in “Mad Men”, their series of Q&A with an actual advertising executive from the time and then there is the Advertising Age reaction to the portrayal of their reporter in the first episode.
“Mad Men” is doing the marketing and advertising business a great favor: it brings it to mainstream. The fact is people are confronted with ads every day, most of the day. A study suggested that the average Joe sees about 600 marketing messages each day: just think at the number of logos, slogans, signs you see just by walking to the office. Yet people’s notion of the making of the ads might not be so familiar as seeing them everywhere is.
The science of advertising and marketing in the Mad Men era was certainly in its beginnings and does not show the viewer the complexity and amount of knowledge and work required to be in the business today. But it doesn’t need to. What Mad Men does is making people see 2 things:
- there’s more to doing advertising than writing on a billboard “This product is the most [insert adjective here].”
- it’s easy to screw it up
Having insight into the creation process and seeing how many tries and concepts go to waste before deciding on one idea to show the client makes the audience go into the character’s minds and get a glimpse of the challenges of seeing into the prospective buyer’s mind and identifying what he/she wants from a product. There are different steps the ad man needs to go through from the first briefing meeting with the client to the concept that is going to change people’s perception about the product:
- familiarization with the product: whether it’s a photo camera or the wonder bra, the advertiser needs to relate to the product
- research on similar products available and what their strengths are (this step is less portrayed in Mad Men, as research in advertising was not considered important until later)
- identifying the product’s strength/s which will be bring a benefit to the consumer and which the consumer relates to
- wording and crafting ads which will transmit the benefit in a direct, clear and concise manner which speaks to the consumer (this is the creative part)
There are still more steps to the process that will bring a creative concept to people’s eyes, ears, noses and they include media planners, media buyers and others.
The ad creation process is one that starts from a product which inspires creative concepts which in return bring the product to consumers. Mad Men is definitely a step forward in bringing the larger audience to understanding more of the challenges behind creating an a commercial message and looking closer at the ads it sees every day.
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