SEM In The 'Mad Men' Era

With the final season of ”Mad Men” debuting this week, let’s ponder what life for search marketers might look like in a world where Don Draper called (and drank) the shots.

1. Search wouldn’t get much budget. Putting aside the fact that the Internet wasn’t invented yet, advertising in the 1960s was all about TV -- and creative was king. Clients and agencies alike coveted mass reach and obsessed over slogans like “Think small” and “We try harder.” The Harry Cranes of the world were lucky if media had a seat at the table – or a decent office. Try as we might, there’d be no way to make search sexy enough to get a second look from the wandering eyes of Don Draper.



2. We’d be doing everything manually. In Season 7, Episode 4, Sterling Cooper & Partners gets its first computer. And the computer gets its own room! From the beginning, Don had a healthy mistrust of machines and an overreliance on his own abilities. There’s no way he’d let an algorithm tell him what to do. He barely listened to focus groups.

As for media placement, everything was negotiated, and insertion orders ruled the day. The thought of using predictive models to bid for ads in real time would not even have crept into a Roger Sterling LSD trip.

3. Campaign success would be measured by gut feel. Ad execs in the “Mad Men” era usually went with their guts, whether it was filling them with three-martini lunches or determining campaign and creative strategies. Market research was widely ignored unless it was delivered by an attractive woman.

Search marketing as we know it today is rife with KPIs like CPC, CTR, and ROI. Back in the ‘60s, ad agencies didn’t even shorten their company names intro acronyms, much less their metrics.

4. Our jobs would be a lot more fun… or would they? Drinking, smoking, cavorting, not being held accountable to results -- sounds like a good gig, right? Maybe…. if you don’t mind liver disease, cancer, and STDs. In our modern marketing world, the unwritten rule is “Speak softly and carry big data.” Today’s top SEM pros get satisfaction from staying on the cutting edge of technology and analytics to drive tangible business results. We may never know the thrill of reinventing the wheel, as Don did in his now-famous Kodak presentation on "the carousel" -- but we’ll also never know the agony of da-feet.

1 comment about "SEM In The 'Mad Men' Era".
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  1. Peter Cavanaugh from Cavanaugh Communications, April 7, 2015 at 6:28 p.m.

     "Drinking, smoking, cavorting?" You bet, but we absolutely WERE held accountable for results. Big time. And no one hid behind "research." I still love David Ogilvy's classic observation -- "Most people use research the way a drunk uses a lampost. Much more for support than illumination."

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