The end of Mad Men in the US last weekend was cause for another bonanza of articles on advertising. One reason to celebrate the demise of the (brilliant) series is that we will no longer have to endure acres of press coverage wistfully wanging on about a perceived heyday when advertising was a glamorous, sexy place to be.
It hasn’t been glamorous and sexy for so long now (if it ever really was) and it’s true that modern advertising has an image problem (evidence: the churn rates in many agencies are awful and say a lot about the frankly boring and unfulfilling nature of so many jobs in our increasingly automated, data-driven, over-commoditised industry).
Anyway, enough of the depressing stuff. Campaign US took the death of Mad Men as an excuse to focus on ways in which our industry has changed for the better.
Let’s start with women, since that’s a subject we’re also tackling on page 16 of this week’s issue.
Sarah Aitken, the chief marketing officer at Iris in the Americas, says today’s ad women have grown up with comparatively fewer obstacles but can’t expect special treatment in this business because they are women: "We should only expect special treatment if we are uniquely great at what we do."
Yes, we’ve lost something in terms of image since the Mad Men days, but it’s time to stop lamenting that world
Either way, Aitken says women stand a better chance of equal treatment now than a few decades back.
And we’re much better on the subject of diversity. As Aaron Walton and Cory Isaacson, the co-founders of Walton Isaacson, wrote for Campaign US: "The contributions men and women of colour have made in the industry are being recognised by AdColor… clients are holding their agencies to a higher standard in terms of staff composition and multicultural competencies… multicultural agencies are able to grow their businesses by taking on assignments that were historically reserved for so-called ‘general market’ agencies." In short: "The playing field may not quite be level, but at least there is a playing field." More on this when the IPA president Tom Knox’s plan for league tables on agency diversity kicks off.
And, as J Walter Thompson’s global chief executive writes, we’re now a truly global industry: "My full name is Gustavo Marcelo Martinez Garcia-Tuñon. My family is from Barcelona, Spain, but I was born in Argentina and have lived across the world. I am most comfortable speaking in Catalan, my mother tongue, but I also speak Spanish, English, Italian, Portuguese and French. You would have been hard-pressed to find a global CEO with my passport back then. Mad Men would have been more likely to show me pushing a broom in the break room."
Yes, we’ve undoubtedly lost something along the way in terms of image and influence since the Mad Men days, but it’s time to stop lamenting that world and focus on making the positive changes even more pronounced.