Time to Don Draper Up

In the previous (re)introduction I made a broad statement that the seemingly cosmic optimism/anxiety of social media is just a part of the micro/macro shifts of history, with a link to Thomas Frank’s book The Conquest of Cool

I wanted to explain a bit further what I meant by that.

The Conquest of Cool focuses on cultural flux of the advertising industry from 1958 till about 1968. Frank offers meticulous historical research, excerpts from period documents and books, and interviews with the key players on the shifting attitudes of advertising as a profession, as well as the idea of advertising as a measurable science. It’s a history lesson but I also think it doubles as management practice for today’s advertisers.

The central thesis of the book is that the counterculture of the 60’s did not change advertising but rather advertising changed how people thought about their life and its relationship to brands

That’s not to suggest it was all a univocal campaign created by ad agencies. Long time advertisers were beginning to employ individuals who may not have been radical Marxists or members of SDS but were at least weekend warriors in the youth culture.

In addition many CEO’s and professional creative’s WANTED to shake things up.

The results entirely reshaped consumer relation and valuations of reality. It can easily be argued that our modern concepts of branding comes from the agency changes of the 60’s

I think we’re in a similar fluidity to them now.

No, social media is not an exact mimic of the 60’s counterculture. Social media offers some interesting ways t engage with brands and consumers, and at the same time the work place is slowly beginning to fill with a generation who grew up with free flow of previously controlled materials (I was in sixth grade when Napster became popular). Of course, for many marketers this has meant they’ve lost control of their  brands “message”.

I think anyone in marketing who believes this has seriously deluded themselves in self-importance. They never had control of the message. People have always sat around and talked about products, how much they sucked or how well something worked.  People have always defaced poster boards.  Brand slogans will always be reappropriated  to meet with certain cultural attitudes outside of what the brand would prefer.

Do we really think the outrage around BP would have been any less if people weren’t able to use tools like Facebook or Twiiter???? That might be a callous example but I think you get the idea.

What has changed is how people operate with this information. The backalleys in which these conversations and alterations take place has opened to a more public forum. The best organization can do is take note of how people are talking about what they’re doing.

My basic breakdown as how to adjust to this:

1.) Discover the Brand’s Social Context
2.) Create and Commit to the Brands Narrative
3.) Create Value for the brands Social Media
4.) Empower Users
5.) Align Social Media with Long Term Goals

I recognize that this is the sort of jargon stock holders and CEO’s hate. But there is no turning back. They need to recognize the media literacy of modern audiences,  who have certain expectations about how brands should operate in this world.

I’m going to close this on a stupid analogy. But I think it works… I also think Mad Men is the best television show since Twin Peaks ( DO NOT EVEN COME AT ME WITH ANY LOST CRAP)

The people who are concerned that their “losing the message” in social media want to me the Don Draper of Season’s 1 & 2. The sort of ultra-cool, impenetrable ad man of advertising’s Golden Age.

But now we’re in Season 4 and much like a high school reunion we’re learning that hyper cool people like Don Draper are just as misguided and vulnerable as the rest of us.

Is social media bringing brands into adulthood?


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