Don Draper is dead.

Bye Bye Mad Men (It's going to Sky)

Image by mrrobertwade (wadey) via Flickr

There’s a lot I like about Mad Men. The characters, the art direction and naturally, the brilliant one-liners from Roger Sterling:

 “She died like she lived. Surrounded by the people she answered phones for.“ (Season 4, Episode 9)

 “Well, I gotta go learn a bunch of people’s names before I fire them.” (Season 4, Episode 12)

As brilliant as the Roger character is, Don Draper gets most of the attention. In fact, when someone outside of the business finds out I work in advertising, they’ll innocently ask, “Who are you on Mad Men?” I can see them waiting in anticipation, hoping I respond ‘Don Draper’ so they can pull out tired jokes about his philandering, binge boozing, and heavy addiction to butts.

The reality is this: Don Draper doesn’t exist anymore(Hell, he hardly existed in the 60’s).
And it’s not because smoking is prohibited or because the only drinking allowed is the 10am shot of Diet Coke. 

No, being a Creative Director is a pretty tough job these days. Here’s a couple of reasons why. 

The Left Brain Coup.
Whether it’s an endless parade of focus groups or an expectation of specific ROI, the left brainers have a lot more clout these days. It’s not right. And it’s not wrong. It’s just different. On one hand, a Creative Director is expected to deliver original, breakthrough ideas that have never been done before. On the other, ROI forecasting is only possible when you measure ideas against everything that has been done before.

Diverse Clients, Diverse Needs.
Draper had it easy. He only had to master TV, print, and a couple of billboards. As a trusted consultant, a CD in 2010 should be able to advise clients on the latest opportunities and how to best leverage emerging channels. But it’s tough to be an expert on anything when one client needs a DM piece and another needs an Android app. 

The Economy
In 2010, clients cut budgets as they responded to economic realities in North America. That put a lot of pressure on Creative Directors to sell more, push more, win more, and accept more. As a good friend and Creative Director of an international agency said to me recently, “I’ve never worked so hard for so little.”

Tune in tomorrow and I’ll share a couple more.

+ Be sure to read more about this in Jeromy Lloyd’s piece, “Rumbles in the Jungles”, in the upcoming Marketing Magazine.
In addition, I’m hosting a panel discussion of some of Canada’s top Creative Directors on the subject, “It’s not really fun anymore.”
It’ll be available in video form next week through Marketing. If you have any questions that you’d like me to ask them, leave them in the comments below. 



  1. Alex Churchill

    Interesting, but from a purely rhetorical standpoint, your “triumph of the left brainers” theory is contradicted by your “diverse clients, diverse needs” point. If ROI is measured by everything that went before and almost every client/project represents something unique then there is nothing that has come before and no way to predict ROI.And “the economy” can be tied to more than simply the leading indicators being in the shitter. I think there is something to the fact that margins are getting squeezed simply because with every passing day it gets easier and easier to produce and deliver the finished product. Digital and social have given the means of production to everyone that used to be available only to highly skilled individuals.If they handed out JDs at hamburger U, Goodman’s sure as hell couldn’t justify charging $350 an hour for some pimply faced associate to tell you how to structure your business. Draper et al had the magic of technical ability – now you can buy it bundled on your MacBook.

  2. Ron Tite

    I don’t think it contradicts. A client who puts a lot of weight behind DM wants a DM piece that has never been done before. A digital client wants web work that has never been done before. Or worse, they say want something that’s never been done before and when a lack of ROI exists, they default to what they’ve always done (print, CRM, etc.) because of the certainty associated with it. The economy is a separate variable from the low cost of production. It’s a 1-2 year blip that has created adverse conditions now (although hopefully that changes in 2011).As for the production, it’s not that production has become cheaper but rather the perception that production is now much easier. Just because you give a kid Microsoft Word, that doesn’t mean he can write a book. Anyone can edit a home movie in iMovie but that doesn’t mean they have the experience to know WHERE the cuts are made. The thinking that goes into those cheaper forms of production is what good clients pay for. Besides, agencies have never made money from production… it’s an out of pocket cost that simply gets passed along. Thanks for reading and thanks for commenting.

  3. microbano

    Alrighty – now we’re getting into it. I’m gonna improve your page rank if it kills me. I think clients want “original” work about as much as Hollywood does – which is to say, not at all. They have to be strong armed, cajoled, wined, dined and 69ed into it. And I think that has resulted in your triumph of the left brains – and the regression to the mean which you so ably outlined. QED. We agree on that – if only via different routes.I shied away from “the economy” for the simple reason that even if we had all spent every non-working hour since September 2008 at dotcom launch parties swimming in wading pools of Cristal with albino elephants, Don Draper would still be dead. In other words, what you’re describing would have happened in any case.Why?1. True, anyone can edit a home movie in iMovie. Granted, most of them don’t know where the cuts should be made. But remember the old adage about a million monkeys at a million typerwriters? Well, how about 6 billion? Also, some of them have talent. And anyway, who ever said ad agencies had a monopoly on talent? Or, for that matter, skill? Eventually, talented people in production are going to look at Don’s colonial in Ossining and say to themselves – I want me some of THAT (or, perhaps, at Betty and say the same thing. But I digress). And they’re going to go after those hi-margin dollars the agencies used to own.2. Perception is reality. It seems like it should be cheaper because it’s easier because it’s more accessible. And all of that is true simply because it is widely believed to be so. Don can only pen so many advertorials in the Times to stem that tide.3. Don Draper and his ilk were used to top-down organizations where decisions were made and carried out with the military precision many of them were accustomed to. You said it yourself – the world is much, much more complicated now and EVERYTHING is a team sport. Collaboration isn’t just a way to get better work, its the only way to get anything done. Don’s not good with sharing the load – or the kudos.Here’s where I’m going: I don’t think Don Draper’s dead. I think agencies are. Social means brands have to take control of their own messaging in an extremely reactive, tactical way. Agencies can’t move fast enough and with enough autonomy to satisfy those demands. I think the next Don Draper will be the Chief Creative Marketing Officer of Coke. My fingers hurt.

  4. Ron Tite

    LOVE the Hollywood parallel. Can you imagine if screenwriters had the same pressure to answer to the “has it been done”? question that a lot of creatives torment themselves with? Yikes. we’d certainly never see another movie were a white middle class teacher goes in and tries to save an inner city school, that’s for sure. I disagree with the million monkeys.. I have yet to see a user-generated spot that is strategically sound. If you consider them PR stunts then fine. BUT I agree that the agency doesn’t own talent and that good ideas will (and already have) been coming from different places. That’s exactly what I’m exploring now – the new model. Where do ideas come from, who gets paid, and who owns the relationship. Saying that agencies are dead is like saying TV is dead. It’s not. It may not look the same in 2 years (I certainly hope agencies don’t) but you can’t flip a switch from one model to the next. The emerging models will force big clients and big agencies to evolve… Love the last line.

  5. microbano

    With the six billion monkeys comment, I wasn’t referring to crowdsourcing. I was referring to brands creative directing themselves using the outsourced talent as their studio on a project-by-project basis. Why pay the mark-up to have an experienced CD work on your business part-time when you can have them work on your business full0time at a lower cost to you? Taking it to the extreme, look at something like Innocean. A very Korean approach to integration, but you get the idea.On a scaled-down level, I think it will work something like an in-house counsel. Creative Counsel will work with C-levels on strategy and direction. Inserting tactical elements as they go. They will then use inside or outside resources to execute. Might be agencies, might be production houses, but either way, I think the high margin hours agencies rely on are drying up.I think you can indeed flip a switch from one model to the next. Agencies are a service. If you can’t flip a switch on a service, then that service is doomed. TV is a platform – and you can flip a switch on that too. It happened the day they turned on Hulu. And – less commercially viably, but no less real – the day the first torrent was unleashed. “It’s derivative, with a twist. That’s what they’re looking for.”DD

  6. microbano

    PS – I work alone. Can you tell?

  7. Ron Tite

    That is exactly the model I’m investigating. It’s the production company model: You assemble a team for the project which may include other agencies and freelancers. Other times, you don’t even need that and you just bring in a smart production company. Clients are trying to force the hand of big brand agencies by saying, “THis is our web agency. You have to work with them.” It doesn’t work because the brand agency has no authority over the niche players and they each spend the entire process trying to save or grow their own pieces of the pie. I still disagree on the Switch. Hulu completely changed the way some people watch TV.. but not everyone. There are still a TON of people that sit down, turn on their TV and watch the ads without the aid of a PVR. Are they decreasing? Definitely. Just as there are some clients who just aren’t ready for the switch yet. They couldn’t handle a new model internally so while everyone changes around them, they will continue to buy the old model. Naturally, there’ll be an agency there to sell it to them. I guess that makes it a dimmer switch. Kinda. Maybe. All I know is that it’s pretty light in Starbucks right now.

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