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Mad Men Mobile Creativity

If Mad Men met mobile, creative would still reign – with a lot of help from science

By Si Crowhurst | head of creative and optimization group

May 20, 2015 | 4 min read

Amid all the discussion of Mad Men's final episode, I’ve been thinking about why a TV series set in the advertising world of the 1960s and ‘70s would seem so relevant to someone in today’s mobile video advertising industry.

At first glance, our two cultures couldn’t be more different. In Don Draper’s time, television was the new frontier and high-tech computers were the size of a boardroom. We live in a time when digital ad spend is overtaking TV, and smartphones claim the lion’s share of consumer attention.

But, the similarities are also pronounced. In the ‘60s, creatives were starting to blend the art of creative with the science of new media. (These two areas were not yet siloed, as they’d later become when McCann Erickson took a huge role in fostering today’s specialized silos.) Now, the ever-disruptive and unstoppable force of mobile has these worlds colliding again in unique ways – all to the benefit of advertisers looking to connect with today’s audience.

In mobile, two worlds collide

This March, McCann itself held the fourth annual Mobile World Congress, exploring how “mobile devices are transforming how our consumers discover, engage and better experience brands”.

Mobile, in many ways, presents a greater challenge to brands than traditional media. The proliferation of channels where consumers spend their time makes engagement more imperative than ever. For brands to catch (and hold) fans’ attention, they need to incorporate creative interactivity, based on in-depth knowledge of app usage, mechanics and user data.

For example, data science now allows for better ad-serving that learns how audiences respond to ad creative and improves continuously to serve better content each time. And, A/B testing allows advertisers to adjust individual levers, like voice-overs, video ad length and calls to action – all while the campaign is still running.

When creativity is paired with such science-based ingenuity, marketers can move from reactive advertising to strategic campaigns that result in more successful metrics.

Advertising now doubles as customer insight

Last season on Mad Men, Sterling Cooper got its first computer to make more accurate media buys. Now, brands work with creatives who use data, and their own high-tech tools, to develop engaging advertising.

Personal transportation app Lyft developed educational mobile video ads that were targeted to mobile users when they were most likely to need a ride. Ultimately, the data showed that people don’t download and use the app immediately, but they may come back to it later when the need arises.

For Lyft CMO Kira Wampler, this insight helps them more deeply understand customers, and underscores their use of mobile video as a hybrid tool of awareness and performance.

Wampler remarked about this on a panel this year with Vungle’s CEO Zain Jaffer, saying, “As a marketer, you should be using a blend of art and science. The art is about deeply understanding consumers, drawing insights out and using insights to build hypothesis around which you test. When you test, you’re using A/B, you’re using science to understand what’s performing and for whom….The key message for marketers is blending these two together.”

In Mad Men’s time as in our own, each campaign needs the human touch to succeed. It’s how we combine this innately human element and cutting-edge tech that will define our own era.

Si Crowhurst is head of Vungle Creative Labs. Previously, he co-founded We Love Mobile and served as global head of innovation at Amobee

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