Mad Men Week

Are you already developing a Mad Men jones following the show’s season finale last night? Then good news because from November 9-13 it’s Mad Men week here at Adaptistration where all week long, content is inspired by or related to Mad Men, the award winning television series at AMC. You don’t have to follow Mad Men to get something out of the posts this week, but it will certainly enhance the fun…

Meet the Mad Men version of Drew. You can design your own Mad Men character at AMCs website.
Meet the Mad Men version of Drew. You can design your own Mad Men character at AMCs website.

For those unfamiliar with the program, AMC describes the series as “Set in 1960s New York, the sexy, stylized and provocative AMC drama Mad Men follows the lives of the ruthlessly competitive men and women of Madison Avenue advertising, an ego-driven world where key players make an art of the sell.”

Outside the interpersonal relationships between characters, the program also focuses on the transitional era of simplistic logic based advertisement to the more sophisticated era we know today. During this time, advertising campaigns based on logic of reason evolved from serving as the core platform to becoming one of several tools designed to subtly develop spending habits.

In the 1960s, consumer development moved from relying on static billboards, commercials, and print add efforts toward comprehensive campaigns designed to exploit the customers’ sense of themselves as insiders. The world of consumable goods became crowded enough that building the best product and convincing buyers of that fact no longer translated into meeting sales goals.

Sound familiar?

Think of the traditional logic based mentality of 1960s marketing as something akin to the notion that classical music is inherently good for you and you should consume it for that reason alone. By and large, the world of performing arts (and especially orchestras) has discovered that relying on the logic based “high art” argument is a strategy that produces diminishing returns.

Consumers are sophisticated enough to understand the language we use to sell the concert experience (as well as justify donations and government support), so the business needs to adapt accordingly. Rather than pushing classical music’s merits, the business needs to focus on persuasion. Furthermore, it needs to acknowledge that the overall concert experience goes beyond listening so taking those elements into consideration is a critical component to building a successful campaign of emotional persuasion.

Fortunately, Mad Men’s writers do a wonderful job at taking the myriad of social and political change taking shape in the 1960s and interjecting it into the advertising campaigns explored by the fictional ad agency of Sterling Cooper. What’s important here aren’t the actual social issues as much as the process they invent to help the show’s characters realize those changes and subsequently incorporate them into their actions (with varying degree of results). The requirement to fit it all of this into a 60 minute weekly run time is a sort of blessing in disguise as the show’s writers are forced to continually condense and refine the final material.

We’ll be exploring all of this in greater detail throughout the week, using some specific examples from Mad Men as a vehicle. But keep in mind that we’re leaving a few days toward the end of the week open for Mad Men related reader suggestions, so don’t be shy about tossing out requests and ideas!

Meet the authors of Inside The Arts as Mad Men characters.
Meet the authors of Inside The Arts as Mad Men characters.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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2 thoughts on “Mad Men Week”

  1. What I find interesting watching Mad Men is the defined roles in the family (although you see them trying to break with those roles and the societal rules). Perhaps we can explore how or if these changing roles and rules have impacted attitudes towards classical music, attendance figures and even the presentation formats. Maybe they have, maybe they haven’t, I’d be curious…

    • The generational gap topic you’re defining is certainly a long standing discussion over the past decade. Undoubtedly, it has some impact on the business, if not all of culture oriented organizations, but I have yet to come across any sort of comprehensive study that refutes or confirms popular assumptions. Is anyone aware of such a study?

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