Just as the fascination with all things Mad Men is at its height, advertising agencies themselves are undergoing a period of great change.
The show, which follows a New York ad agency as it struggles to adapt to the television age and survive in rapidly-changing 1960s society, has many parallels with what ad agencies are going through now in our fast-moving digital age. This is a challenging and disconcerting time for ad agencies and their survival depends on their ability to embrace new media and adapt to a consumer-driven market.
In this fragile economy, many companies no longer have the budgets to throw at big-name ‘multinationals’. A business model based on creating a witty concept and buying media space to disseminate it no longer ensures that the message is heard. Consumers are so overwhelmed by an abundance of information on myriad platforms that agencies must purposefully engage with their target market, whether it be through their cell phones, iPads, or traditional print media. The traditional ad agency thrived on its ability to produce ideas; but ideas are no longer enough. Edward Boches, of marketing blog Creativity Unbound, sums up the challenge perfectly: “we can no longer buy attention”.