In Search Of The New “Mad Men”: Will They Be At Cannes This Year?

What do the "Mad Men" of 2015 look like? At Cannes Lions Innovation, contributor Sanjay Dholakia explores the role of marketing technology and what the new generation of "Mad Men" must do to thrive.

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If Don Draper popped up at the Cannes Lions conference this year, he’d find himself dreadfully out of place.

Draper, the prototypical ad genius chronicled in Matthew Weiner’s “Mad Men’” television series, is now cultural shorthand for a bygone era in post-1945 America.

But Draper and his cohort cast also represent a bygone era in marketing — an era when brands relied almost exclusively on agencies to create their advertising campaigns to market their products to the public.

A New Era

This creative process has forever changed in the era of pervasive digital and data, where customers lead, where brands cannot interrupt, where brands must engage in developing a real relationship with customers — or perish.

It occurs to me that, just as faithful TV watchers of the now-ended series are seeking their next new chapter and set of characters, CMOs everywhere are looking for their new “Mad Men” to help them succeed in this very new and different world.

As Marketo’s chief marketing officer, I’m at Cannes this year — for the first time — representing a part of the technology industry that’s forcing a transformation in advertising. I’m attending largely because of the Lions Innovation “festival within a festival,” which explores the collision of data, technology, and creativity.

As a player in the martech world, I am thrilled to be attending (and, not just because it is the south of France). If you have any idea what companies like ours do, you know this different way of doing marketing is thrilling. If you don’t, you probably are feeling increasingly lost.

“With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility”

Was it Voltaire or Uncle Ben in “Spider-Man” who said that? Regardless, technology has given marketers and agencies great power — but also great responsibility to know how to use it to its highest purpose.

Technology has scrambled that old equation for marketers and agency executives alike. The former world of advertising centered on the ability to conjure up a killer idea for an ad campaign that might have lasted a month or a year — or anything in between.

But with reams of new data now at their disposal and the ability to closely track the performance of a company’s marketing messages, marketers need a lot more from the new set of “Mad Men” heading to Cannes. They have a lot more responsibility to serve their clients well.

“Two Ears And One Mouth”

I think my mom said this — but she probably stole it from someone else. It’s a simple and profound point. The old era of marketers and “Mad Men” behaved as if we had two mouths to talk — maybe three — and no ears to listen.

It’s hardly hyperbole to describe the new world we inhabit as one moving at the speed of digital and “always-on,” 24/7 interactions. Generic messages sent out in shotgun fashion just won’t cut it.

As consumers, we now expect individual, ongoing conversations with brands. We expect brands to pay attention and help us on our terms — not on theirs.

We all want every brand to interact with us the way does — listening, responding, personalizing. So successful marketers are now paying especially close attention listening to the sundry digital cues that are everywhere.

The entire way brands and agencies think has been turned upside down. The idea of a “campaign” — regimented, restrictive, almost military in nature — that was waged slowly, methodically, over months or even years, is now defunct.

One CMO recently told me that in this new always-on digital world that demands individualized conversations, she runs a campaign every hour. We need a Mad Man who can help do that.

We’ve Seen This Movie

If agencies are going to navigate this new world successfully, they’ll need to complement the ad technology they use with the new generation of marketing technology.

This intersection of data, creative, insight, and action — call it a marriage between adtech and martech — will be something to watch closely in Cannes at the Lions Innovation festival.

While all this heralds a turning point for agencies, this isn’t the first time innovators used data and technology to create a new competitive advantage. Think about what Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane did with the advent of Moneyball when his peers still focused on gut instinct. Or how the Obama campaign reinvented election strategy. Or how Nate Silver reinvented election forecasting.

Following these innovations, every team in the major leagues now uses the same techniques to judge its personnel. Every political campaign is now scrambling to catch up to data-driven engagement.

Employing the charm offensive as the sole tactic in campaigning is as obsolete as the 1950s. And in marketing and advertising — like history repeating itself — it’s the teams who are using marketing automation to engage with customers that are today’s pioneers — and winners.

You still need great intuition and messages — advertisers still need to be ridiculously creative. But without the data, you’re simply guessing. Baseball and other professions now operate fundamentally differently with a dramatic level of granularity and precision because of this convergence of digital and data.

That’s the challenge — and massive opportunity — for the new “Mad Men.” It’s something that I hear CMOs asking for all the time. But if they’re to help marketers do their jobs, the new generation of “Mad Men” must learn to help their clients become great at engagement marketing.

Mass marketing went out with the three martini lunch on Madison Avenue. And if CMOs don’t find direction on this new marketing style from their current “Mad Men,” they will go find it elsewhere.

The agencies that adapt will thrive because their customers will have competitive advantage. The others are fated to fade away. Let’s celebrate this new era at Cannes. If we get it right, maybe it will be time to toast to our success at a three martini lunch.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Sanjay Dholakia
Sanjay Dholakia is responsible for extending Marketo’s product leadership, developing business segments, and establishing a new solution ecosystem to increase the company’s reach. Sanjay joins Marketo from Crowd Factory, where as CEO, he was responsible for the strategic direction and vision of the company. Prior to Crowd Factory, Sanjay was CMO at Lithium Technologies, the leading provider of Social CRM solutions. Sanjay holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA in strategy and marketing from the Kellogg School of Management.

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