Thought Leadership

Here’s A Big Idea: WWDDD? (What Would Don Draper Do?)


June 10, 2015

By Sloan Gaon

It’s been more than 30 years since industry icon David Ogilvy published his book, “Ogilvy on Advertising,” and more than a half-century since the release of his “Confessions of an Advertising Man.” Ogilvy is thought by many to be the model for the character of Don Draper in “Mad Men.” Some might say that in this age of ad tech, he’s a dinosaur, and that the principles he outlined have become obsolete. But in my opinion, his words – and his world – still matter to today’s mad men and women.

Yes, technology ideally enables us to reach the right consumer in the right place at the right time on the right device. But it’s not a panacea, and we shouldn’t be so enamored with its capabilities that we allow it to pull us away from our roots.

What’s The Big Idea? One of Ogilvy’s four main principles was about creative brilliance. “It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product,” he wrote. “Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night. I doubt if more than one campaign in a hundred contains a big idea.” While many things have changed since Ogilvy wrote those words in the early 1980s, there is still a need for art as well as science in modern advertising.

Consider these findings from a recent study conducted by PulsePoint:

71 percent of marketers surveyed say that programmatic technology best supports mid- and upper-funnel marketing objectives.

* 27 percent said programmatic was most effective at increasing website and landing-page traffic, a decidedly mid-funnel objective.More surprising, 26 percent said increasing brand awareness is the best-supported objective.

Indeed, while programmatic may be moving up the funnel and taking on new branding initiatives, the success of advertising campaigns are still rooted in the creative: What’s the message that will move, motivate and connect with your potential target consumers at their core?

Looking Back While Going Forward

Now marks a time of reflection for agencies, and anyone in advertising. In this ever-expanding age of programmatic, the “always on” consumer faces an advertising avalanche. Without an ad tech component, yourcampaigns will be virtual trees that fall in a vast digital forest. And whether they make a sound will hinge on your ability to create great campaigns and get them in front of the right readers.

This is why big holding companies, who used to snap up branding shops, are now also acquiring ad tech firms. For example, Publicis can now funnel dollars through their mobile-focused ad platform RUN, rather than brands going around them. We can look forward to this consolidation trend to continue as more and more agencies aim to capitalize on the tech revolution.

What would Ogilvy – or for that matter, Don Draper – make of today’s advertising landscape? I believe both would say that despite all the radical change, the success of your campaign still boils down to that one creative “big idea.”

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