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5 Marketing Lessons from Mad Men

June 16, 2014

I’ve done a bit of film and television work in the past, so I have a subscription to The Hollywood Reporter. In a recent issue, AMC (or somebody affiliated with Mad Men) had a great eight-page campaign that’s worth looking at here.

When somebody gets an Emmy Award and thanks “the Academy,” The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is who they’re talking about.

And the first step of the process is to get nominated by Academy members, which is the purpose of the ad campaign.

Anybody who has seen Mad Men knows there are plenty of great marketing lessons within the show. The marketing knowledge of the writers and consultants has obviously rubbed off, because the Emmy campaign for the show itself is very well done.

5 Marketing Lessons from Mad Men

1. Ask For What You Want – Don’t just assume people know what you want or what you have to offer. People are busy and they’re concerned with their own lives more than your needs, so you have to let them know when you have a request.

The ads in this campaign very clear — they’re asking for Emmy nominations. That’s it.

Don’t confuse your message by asking for too much. Point your audience in the right direction and have them do one thing.

2. Repetition Gets Results – There’s an old belief that people need to see an ad seven times before they’ll remember it. At least that’s what the guy selling you ads will tell you…

Has there ever been a study that proves this? Not that I know of.

Still, there have been plenty of real world tests from direct mail advertisers and bill collection agencies, which have proven time and time again that repetition does work.

Even in a magazine full of ads, it’s hard to miss an advertiser when he’s bought eight full pages in a row.

Just like it’s hard to ignore a newsletter that comes every week, a podcast that’s produced every day, or a blog that publishes on a regular schedule…

3. Target Decision Makers – This series of ads isn’t for everybody — it’s for people who can nominate a show for an Emmy Award.

W. Clement Stone said, “Big doors swing on little hinges.”

A standard viewer is nice, but other than a little social proof, Joe Six-Pack matters very little when it comes to the Emmy Awards, because Emmy Awards aren’t directly based on popularity.

If you want an Emmy, you have to target the specific people who can make one happen. And those people, members of The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, read The Hollywood Reporter.

Where do the “big fish” in your industry hang out? What do they read?

4. Be Congruent – Mad Men is about the advertising business and it takes place in the 1960s, so spoof ads from that time period are perfect for this purpose. This campaign wouldn’t have worked nearly as well had the ads each been from a different time period or otherwise looked like they didn’t belong together.

Metallica doesn’t have a flute player.

Don’t confuse your audience. Be consistent.

5. Go Big – Flipping through an entertainment industry magazine, whether it’s The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, or AVN, it’s easy to get lost. There are big ads everywhere — full-pages and pullouts that are very clever.

What’s the solution? Do something even bigger…and back it up by being even more clever.

Going big sets a precedent.  Nobody’s going to take a pimp seriously if he’s driving a Kia. And clever makes it memorable and worth talking about for even more exposure.

So let’s take a look at the campaign…

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Final Thoughts

Mad Men is a great show and I recommend it to everybody in the business of marketing. Sure, there is a lot of drama, but there are huge lessons to be learned from watching the characters at the “Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce” agency come up with advertising campaigns that connect with people on an emotional level.

ABOUT THIS SERIES: Every Monday, I analyze the good, bad, and ugly about the marketing behind a common business or famous personality. See other posts in this series here and, if you have a request for something (or someone) you’d like me to analyze for this series, contact me via Twitter.

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