Mad Men and Online Advertising 2.0

In only its second season AMC’s Mad Men has been hailed as the next Sopranos and was heavily decorated in both historic nominations and awards. The show portrays the infancy of the today’s advertising industry, its symbiotic relationship in both shaping and evolving with culture in the 1960s and the resulting ramifications on society. The show is a time-capsule of the U.S. norms forty years ago and can shock the viewer in how much has changed in regards to equality, truth and women’s role in the workplace. Even more eyeopening, how much the advertising industry has not evolved during the same span of time. The salaries have increased, but communication mediums and strategies are all the same. The question is whether the target has changed?

I straddle the dividing line between Generation X and Y that I believe provides a front row seat to the radical change in consumer habits that are redefining business. I never watched broadcast news and stopped reading the newspaper about eight years ago. Nearly all the TV I watch is on-demand, either through a DVR or online. With the lone exception of Fast Company, I always to prefer to read a magazine’s online edition compared to print. Why? I have become increasingly frustrated with the inability to link to similar content and immediately comment or direct friends to interesting information. Its been months since I tuned into radio, instead I listen to about an hour and a half of podcasts every day. Ten years ago, I would be seen as ignorant and uniformed of the world in which I live. Not today though. Instead I am highly connected, I just happen to exclusively direct my attention to interactive social media and entertainment. The question is what are advertisers doing about the shift?

Similar to the standard print advertisement, the online display ad accompanies content and comprises the main revenue source for publishers. However, the industry average click through rate for online display advertising is a dismal .1 percent. Its not working and online spend is slowing as the industry looks for ways to generate a reasonable ROI.

Advertising firm Avenue A/Razorfish announced a partnership with interactive social services provider Pluck to develop a social display advertising product they call AdLife. It is innovative in that it will weave social features such as consumer comments and reviews directly into the ad to provide third party recommendations to the target. This is a strong example of the burgeoning online interactive marketing pull strategy being deployed by leading firms. Similar innovation has yet to make its way to the online video arena as executives at the RBC Capital conference this week lamented on growing to the current TV spend level of $50 billion. Marketing success can be attained in the online environment, but it will require new strategies that include social aspects and loosening of control on the purchased ad space. Instead of buying ad space to direct a message at the consumer, advertising 2.0 is all about companies buying space to allow consumers to talk about and to them.


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