Around 5:30 Tuesday, I was standing at the bar at 21 with Don Draper for a couple of Gibsons and some advice. It was a typical muggy August New York evening, but Don looked sharp, his poplin suit perfectly pressed, that little dab of Brylcreem keeping it all in place. We lit a couple of Luckies, and Don mentioned that he had a very important meeting at 7 in the Village at a very important female client's apartment -- so we should cover what we need to cover.
So I laid it out for Don. "I got something to run up the flagpole," I said nervously. He grimaced. "Don, my clients are all asking about how to make this performance advertising stuff work. Is it all baloney?"
Don snorted. "There's nothing wrong with baloney. Oscar Meyer seems to sell a lot of it," he said. "But selling with performance advertising is just like selling anything else. You want my ideas? Let me tell you how it work." Don chewed his pickled onion and waved to Eddie the bartender that another Gibson was required.
I was taking notes on a napkin, leaning on the back of the ashtray. They have a very high-class sort of napkin at 21, by the by. Here's what Don told me:
Don's first point was to stop confusing the client with all the numbers -- like the cost per action. The only number that matters is sales. Does a dollar spent in performance mean a dollar more in sales than buying a TV ad on "Gunsmoke" or "Twilight Zone"? If it does, then any smart client is going to move his budget to performance.
Then he asked me if I thought performance advertising was sexy. I laughed a little, shuffled in my seat and told him that I thought performance was really more about quantified analysis than image. Don looked bored. Or maybe he was eying that redhead at the bar. His attention came back to the subject at hand: "If it's just about logic and people don't like your product, it's not advertising. The consumer won't buy it -- and that means your client won't either. The creative matters. Sell it."
I started to sweat a little, like one of those guys that Mike Hammer leans on. But Don ordered me another drink. He grabbed a handful of peanuts, lit another smoke and related how selling a product was just like golf -- all about following through. "Really selling your product takes time," Don expounded. "The ad starts the infatuation -- but they really fall in love if you keep in touch and keep telling them what they want to hear." I knew he was talking about the conversion strategies that make those performance numbers sing.
Don drank up, left a five for Eddie and hit the road. "Hope that helped, pal," he chuckled as he hopped into a Checker toward his evening meeting.
It's been a long time since those Gibsons, but I framed that napkin because Don's three points are at the heart of succeeding with performance advertising: focus on the sale, pay attention to the creative and follow up to convert more of your best prospects. Thinking like that will probably even work in the 21st century.