Lessons from Mad Men: the first book on history, present and future of advertising

Stories, strategies and tactics of the post-modern consumption scenario: shining a light on the enchanting advertsing world of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Today we want to suggest you an interview to the authors of  ”Lessons from Mad Men“, Adele Savarese and Emma Gabriele. The book, edited by Sole24Ore, is a real immersion into the far past of advertising and a perspective of its path until today: the Mad Men series becomes a log that proposes an all-accomplished view on corporate communication to all spectators and advertisers. We were the ones who first talked about this literary project, back in September 2010.

An “extravagant but bright” text, which includes a foreword written by the worldwide recognised legend of advertising: Jacques Séguéla (Euro RSCG vice-president and Chief Creative Officer).

In a few words, the book represents a time-machine-book, following Don Draper, makes us wonder what of those marketing golden moments has gone past, what has been internalised and what has outsmarted history revolutions. What does advertising owe to love, happiness and truth? When is advertising telling the truth? Where do ideas come from and how do creatives originate? What is the process for building product identity and giving it personality, empathy and persuasiveness? A book full of references and citations, often relating to the advertising facts that see Sterling Cooper’s creatives in Mad Men involved, as well as interviews to seven Italian Mad Men: Massimo Guastini, Alessandro Orlandi, Francesco Emiliani, Roberto Maraggia, Francesca De Luca, Alex Brunori, Pasquale Diaferia.

Getting curious? The whole chapter on Sensible Branding – the heart of the book – can be downloaded here, using the Pay with a Tweet system.

Let’s now give way to the authors in this short interview (estimated reading time: 5 minutes)

The book makes use of the TV series Mad Men to accomplish a real journey into the history of advertising. In your opinion, what is the biggest heritage left from those years magnificently represented in the series?

AS: In the golden age of marketing, advertising had an extremely suggestive impact. Consumers were more naive, in a good sense, so it was easier for brands to position themselves in the minds of consumers, at that time blank and unexplored as not disturbed by today’s confusion. In my opinion, the most important lesson that has resisted in time is that great ideas, simple and smart ones, always win. And it’s thanks to those ideas that it’s still possible, today like yesterday, to surprise consumers, stimulate their curiosity and get them involved in sharing brand value.

EG: We are now living the consequences of what has started in the past: those who were born afterwards don’t know much about it (unless they have read a bit of history) but many things that today are taken for granted, actually saw light in those years, for better or for worse. Those years represent the first steps of the development of modern society, everything was different: despite interpersonal and familiar relations and sex disparities being dictated by strict rules, the desire for change during those years has put down roots in our life, hence in the future.. there wasn’t only Lucy “in the Sky with Diamonds”, but there was also us.

Adele Savarese aka Aiko. Managing Editor & Editor-at-large, Experiential Marketing Freelance Advisor

The comparison between past and present of advertising is entrusted to the conversations hold with italian creatives (our Mad Men). Why did you chose this particular structure to convey such parallelism?

AS: Interviews to advertisers have helped us in making a profession and a lifestyle crystal clear. They surely contextualise the creative era we are living in Italy nowadays. Adversiting is deeply studied and well executed, for this reason it has been necessary to compare different agency realities. The foreword by Jacques Séguéla makes us realise that there is no need to distinguish between past, present and future of advertising: those three elements, indeed, all coexist in Jacques’s words, as advertising goes across frontiers rather than chronological periods.

EG: We did it to understand what there is left in the creative life of those who are advertisers for passion, and of course for profession.

In the book,  a new concept is introduced: “Sensible Branding”. Could you anticipate to Ninja Marketing readers where this theory comes from, and what it consists of?

AS: Sensible Branding comes from the opportunity, yet not caught by brands, to “possess” physical-symbolic and value spaces rather than media-vehicles of messages. That’s why this new creative theory does not see media – all media, from ambient to TV – “just” in terms of reach and frequency. On the contrary, it celebrates them as meaning-carriers coming from a particular combination of target presence, emergency of needs/wants and sensorial or functional characteristics of a particular media. And this is how, for instance, a fire-extinguisher circuit in a famous museum can become an advertising medium for an anti-inflammatory medicine, such as Lasonil, or how Norton Antivirus decides to communicate its message in the proximity of love-padlocks locked around famous bridges. So, if Norton’s brand value is the protection of precious things, in which physical spaces in the world is that same value expressed?

EG: It is then possible to switch to the creative association between the value to be communicated and space in which that value is established. Another example? Vanish, the famous disinfecting detergent brand, trying to sponsor the White House. This is a totally novel theory, and we expect to see other creative examples of Sensible Branding soon, especially within media planning strategies.

Emma Gabriele. Lawyer, Marketing Expert, Corporate Communication Advisor

Several advertising campaigns are mentioned in the book, and they surely arouse couriosity. Have you thought about a specific method to facilitate the fruition for the readers?

AS: Readers of  ’Lessons from the Mad Men’ have a website at their disposal: www.madmanadv.com. Divided in chapters, it is easy to support the reading process, because all the campaigns mentioned in a certain chapter have been included in that specific section of the website.

EG: Originally, we thought about providing free coffee, aspirins and post-its, but the website gives a better idea and it’s definitely more fun!