As the final curtain falls on “Mad Men” — the highly acclaimed drama with enough awards and nominations to fill several large displays – critics and fans alike will debate for some time to come the “real meaning” of the show and, ultimately, what Mathew Weiner (the show’s creator) really thought about the ad agency business of the 1960s (not to mention an entire bygone era.)
Of course, there is such a thing as over-analyzing a hit show at the expense of just enjoying it as plain, ol’ entertainment. But if you’ll indulge this writer for just a moment, it sure seems that – at one level – Mathew Weiner harbors a very dark, cynical view of the ad agency business which he encapsulated in the lead character for the entire series – Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm). More to the point, the business of building (and pumping up) brand images has its real-life counterpoint in Don Draper, a man pretending to be someone he is not. Rampant adultery, misogyny, and a constant flow of grain alcohol are the inevitable outcome.
But whatever the case may be, any interpretation is by definition reductionistic and in some way detracts from the sheer popularity of the show, which will be missed by millions of viewers, as well as our clients who have enthusiastically supported this show throughout the years – especially this very last season (which was split in half and separated by a full year hiatus.)
A few statistics that stand out in high relief. Not counting the very last episode, 260 Viamedia clients across 45 markets invested in over 1,700 30-second spots. But most impressive of all is the doubling of local cable ad revenues in the final season (versus Season 6, which aired in 2013.) That increase was driven by more units purchased (+29%); higher unit pricing (+69%) and the multiplicative effect of the two (+20%).
While the automotive category took the lion’s share of advertising during Mad Men’s last season (32%), the #1 and #2 advertisers were in fact the famous Chicago jeweler (since 1937), C.D. Peacock, and the cable network, History Channel. In the case of the former, there is clearly a thematic tie-in with the sheer glamour of the show; and in the case of the latter, we have a cable network seeking to reach a large and highly engaged audience associated with an award-winning show.
In closing, perhaps what will be debated most of all about “Mad Men” is whether it really captured the ethos of the 1960s ad business, or was it just the imaginings of one creative genius, Mathew Weiner? Undoubtedly, there were ad men whose behavior was “way over the top” and you’ll probably find a few of them today. But is such behavior confined to the world of advertising?
Whatever the case may be, there is one undeniable difference between the world of “Mad Men” and the advertising industry today. In two words: Big Data. And not just “Big Data” in the context of marketing & media research, but also “Big Data” as applied to Don Draper’s discipline — the creative process. And based on the data from our own internal traffic and billing records, local cable advertisers have given “Mad Men” a send-off in a very big way.
For more information on Viamedia, visit www.viamediatv.com.
– Written by Jonathan Sims, VP Media Research, Viamedia