Creative Mad Men of 2013 – Contemporary Campaigns

In Digital Strategy by Marius Badenhorst

Media-MarketingThe question, “What would Don Draper do?” is one that cheekily circles the advertising industry ever since The Oatmeal first asked it.

Advertising has changed so much since the 1950s that you would almost forgive the character’s chronic whiskey drinking as a coping mechanism if he were suddenly transported to earth circa 2013. However, as much as the advertising industry has changed, certain core principles remain unchanged – the soapbox used on street corners in the 1900s has simply been replaced with one that can reach the entire globe: the internet.

The More Things Change…

If we breakdown what successful marketers were doing 100 years ago, we will soon discover that successful marketers today are really doing much of the same thing – it’s merely the medium that has changed. Effective creative digital campaigns today contain the same magic (good or bad) that snake oil salesman had in The Wild West; let’s look at just a few of the most important considerations that remain even while their delivery is revolutionised.

  • Awareness Quite simply, if people don’t know who you are or what you sell, how are you ever going to compete in a free market. It used to be enough to wear outlandish outfits, parading the streets of Venice as a merchant – today this means knowing your customer, their social media habits and catching their attention.
  • Engagement Interestingly just before the internet and after the industrial revolution, it was the little guys (the cornershops, cafes etc) that suffered as the age of the mall and/or supermarket arose. Today the internet offers one of the cornerstones of effective marketing: engagement. While it may have a fancy new term (brand activation) it was engagement with communities that saw success for small and big business alike; today engagement is available to all levelling the playing field once more.
  • Bait The bait has never changed functionally but has changed monikers as often as Lady Gaga changes outfits at an awards show; you have to lure in enquiry when it comes to marketing campaigns – please don’t confuse this with sales. Ironically effective campaigns have always been more about piping interest in a brand or product than boosting conversion of that product; conversion is the topic of an entirely different article and, while it may seem like semantics, effective marketing may not have to sell anything at all.
  • Product The final cornerstone of a successful marketing campaign is one that may confuse: you have to market a product that people want. I know what you’re thinking; ‘isn’t the point of marketing trying to sell products regardless?’ Good salesmen may be able to sell ice to Eskimos but when it comes to effective and successful marketing, the goal is so much more than a simple conversion. A great campaign is way easier to get excited about if it’s a product that people already want; it’s about exposing that excitement to those who don’t know the product and brand that should be the true goal.

These four pillars make up the never-changing landscape of what successful creative marketing campaigns have always needed and always will.

…The More They Stay the Same

Small business fighting fit against large.


Today awareness can be achieved a lot easier than what was possible even a decade ago; the internet allows us the freedom today to self-publish, without the giant budgets needed in the 1950s to reach a mere 10,000 potential customers. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest, to name a few, all give small to medium businesses the same boxing gloves the big boys have spent millions monopolising for the last hundred years.


These same tools and so much more allow for ease of engagement in a contemporary world as the local community becomes the global community. You may choose to serve only your city or connect with customers on the other side of the world; the rules of engagement are yours to decide whereas in the past it would take Marco Polo a decade to sell a silk scarf a few thousand kilometres away.

Beware of attracting the wrong attention.


When it comes to enticement, the methods of baiting interest are truly only as limited as your imagination. The gimmicks of yesteryear are the viral videos of today. What has changed today though is the fact that you can receive as much interest as you can handle personally without needing to hire an army of salespeople. Social media puts you in direct communication with the customer whereas before enticement could easily lead to the ransacking of your wagon on the Oregon Trail.


Finally we address the product; people will always need or want products and that never changes. However we as creative Mad Men are not so far into the future that we can read minds (yet). What has changed from the past though is that we have the tools to best guess those minds and present them with what they want and/or need effectively. We don’t need to take those vacuum cleaners door-to-door anymore; today creative campaigns can use AdWords, SEO and other concepts to perfectly streamline straight into the bloodstream what people want, where and when.

Social Media!? I don’t understand.

To Conclude

So as you can see while it may SEEM that social media marketing campaigns today would look like science fiction to admen of the 50s, the truth is the more things change the more they stay the same. Understanding the never-changing principles of effective marketing and applying them to the ever-expanding digital world means that you can be the next Don Draper – that’s something we can all drink to.

About the Author

Marius Badenhorst