Are We the New Mad Men?

It's easy to romanticize advertising's so-called 'golden age.' But for every dazzling creative spectacle - Don Draper's Kodak "Carousel" presentation or "I'd like to buy the world a Coke" - there were a dozen examples of clients' befuddlement and contempt for how little the "ad guys" really understood the business of marketing shoes or orange juice or private aviation.

As depicted on Mad Men, so it was in real life. And so it continues today. But now the ones who 'don't get it' are more likely to be wearing hoodies than Italian suits. Advertising Age wrote about the 2015 CMO Digital Benchmark Study and started the article with this ominous phrase: Chief Marketing Officers are from Venus, Chief Technology Officers are from Mars....

According to the study, just 30% of surveyed marketing executives said the relationship with their internal IT/Tech groups was 'collaborative and productive,' while just 13% of IT execs described it as such. And these are all people who work for the same companies. Open up the door to outside vendors - DSPs, DMPs, data providers and on-boarders, trading desks, retargeting firms - and I would expect it gets a lot worse. While the Mad Men of the 60s and 70s would obsess about the jingle or the illustration at the expense of the sale, the Mad Men and Women of 2015 ad tech love to spout technical minutiae and expound on ever more elaborate documentation. We mistake the quiet, respectful silence of the marketer for genuine interest. In reality, he or she is silently screaming MAKE IT STOP!

And then they delegate us to the people we sound like. And that's inevitably a bad thing.

As I work with ad tech sales teams, this is the non-obvious problem they almost always face. They think the issue is negotiation tactics or presentation skills (as though telling the same story more eloquently would do the trick). But almost always they are telling the wrong story entirely: they're telling a story about ad technology in which they'll allow the marketer to play a part. The story the marketer wants to hear - not surprisingly - is actually a story about marketing their product, in which the ad tech company comes in to play a supporting role.

There are obviously a lot of differences between the golden age of advertising and the ad tech land rush of today. But alienation and tone-deafness are timeless. In either era, a little self-awareness and empathy for the true customer could go a long way.