Last year, one of the most iconic television shows called time on a glittering run. The pop‐culture phenomenon that was “Mad Men” brought millions of modern viewers into the advertising and marketing agencies of yesteryear, a time when branding went industrial and companies began to focus on finding their identities.
One of the most celebrated quotes from Don Draper goes: “If you don’t like what’s being said, then change the conversation.” The statement speaks to a universal truth: In order to succeed, you sometimes need to rethink your approach.
“Mad Men” represented the days of the good ol’ boys club that valued a specific hierarchy for content creation and saw the masses as passive consumers. That all ended when customers gained access to a near-ubiquitous platform–the Internet–and become active participants in the formulation of mass-brand perception. No longer could “Mad Men” like Draper cling to the belief that "people tell you who they are, but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be."
The audience now has a voice, and with it comes the power to create as much as it consumes. In this new era, brands and agencies need to adapt accordingly. Several studies have shown that Millennials–so-called “Digital Natives” (ages 18 to 36)–now trust consumer-generated content more than brand-generated content. Indeed, the top-down approach is being flipped on its head. To thrive, the creative process needs to reflect this shift and tap into the power of co-creation.
“Mad Men” first began its run in 2007–just a year after the term “crowdsourcing” was first coined by Jeff How in Wired Magazine. It’s perhaps ironic that a show chronicling the rise of the traditional advertising agency model did so in parallel to the rise of co-creation. As a poetic and fitting tribute for our time, AMC even chose to drum up excitement for the final episode of the series by inviting fans to (co)-re-create the pilot episode that started it all.
In 2015, some of the biggest brands and FMCG manufacturers on the planet that featured as Draper’s clients found success with crowdsourced campaigns, including Coca-Cola, Proctor & Gamble, and Heineken. Recent reports show the biggest FMCG brands increased their investments in crowdsourcing by almost 50% in 2014, with Gartner predicting that by 2017, more than half of consumer goods manufacturers will source 75% of their consumer innovation from crowdsourced solutions.
Brands and agencies will continue to turn customers into active co-creators of valuable intelligence, ideas, and creative innovation–ensuring they remain relevant to the audiences they serve. This is an ideal that Unilever’s Keith Weed has been keen to promote in recent years, with the stated intent of shifting from marketing “to” people to marketing “for” people.
Thanks to a digitally enabled, empowered, and creative crowd, advertising has come a long way since the days of Sterling Cooper & Partners. As much as I will always love “Mad Men,” I think it’s probably for the better. If Gartner’s right, brands and agencies have a fantastic opportunity in front of them in 2016: to embrace change, leverage the creative intelligence of crowds, and turn their ideas into award-winning campaigns.