What Would Don Draper Say About Programmatic?

What does a “household name” mean anymore? When Don Draper was creating campaigns, whiskey-filled drink carts were clanking around advertising agencies, and making a brand a household name was the hallmark of a job well done.

In 2014, that isn’t necessarily the pinnacle of success. Brands and advertisers are now obsessed with reaching targeted audiences through programmatic ad buying. Forrester Research forecast that programmatic real-time bidding spend for video advertising will hit $1.14 billion in 2014, a 284% increase since 2012.

Despite the obsession with programmatic, however, it’s still very new, and not many people truly understand it. In a May study, the Association of National Advertisers found that only 26% of marketers said they knew what programmatic buying was. And even as programmatic spending skyrockets, something is still holding marketers back. Millward Brown Digital found that 88% of digital marketing decision makers at Fortune 5000 companies said that making emotional connections through digital media would encourage them to spend more on digital branding campaigns.



Don would certainly agree with that 88%. He was known for forging human connections to sell iconic brands like Jaguar, Hilton Hotels and Lucky Stripe. So what would he do in 2014?

He would focus on how campaign performance is measured. His main concern in the 1960s was reaching the highest number of eyeballs. He knew what networks and billboards would feature his work and where ads should go for the highest levels of visibility. It was a much simpler process to manage because options were limited. At the end of a run, his campaign successes were determined by sales.

Today, campaign performance is not about finding the most eyeballs, but the right eyeballs. Driving sales is still at the bottom line, but campaign success is quantified by rates: completion, viewability, engagement, click-through, Facebook likes. The frantic programmatic way of buying and selling advertising space gets brands in front of those right eyeballs.

Considering that users skip about 90% of pre-roll video ads, one of the most popular video ad formats used today, Don’s creative prowess would definitely be in demand to help engage viewers. And with the trend of companies increasingly producing their own content, a modern-era Don could easily find himself in-house working for a brand, anything from an automobile company to a food giant, as chief content officer, churning out Twitter hashtags and Instagram campaigns.

The advertising industry has evolved dramatically in the past 50 years. It’s hard to imagine that Don’s crew once had to decide between a computer and keeping the temperamental creative director.  Today’s tough choices revolve around programmatic, mobile platforms, social media, and fostering the intangible emotional connection to consumers. The times and technology may be different, but as it was paramount in the 1960s to foster an emotional connection to one’s target audience, 2014 advertisers must take it a step further, reaching the right audience with that compelling creative.

4 comments about "What Would Don Draper Say About Programmatic?".
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  1. Bob Sacco from Travel Ad Network/Travora Media, December 29, 2014 at 11:37 a.m.

    Don Draper would say that programmatic is Secondary audience not Primary. That is, programmatic is still warmed-over unsolved inventory that nobody wanted to buy in the first place. That's what I say too.

  2. William Hoelzel from JWB Associates, December 29, 2014 at 11:53 a.m.

    Good contrast, then and now. (One minor correction: Lucky StriKe cigarettes, right?)

  3. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, December 29, 2014 at 5:59 p.m.

    The irony is that Don Draper couldn't get a job in the ad biz today.

  4. Charles Hanrahan from Hybrid Advertising, December 31, 2014 at 8:14 a.m.

    How quick we forget: LSMFT

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