“Mad Men”, the landmark AMC series which ran for seven award-filled seasons, is coming to an end. Like Walter White, the central character of my other favorite drama, “Breaking Bad“, Don Draper was “Mad Men’s” sympathetic bad boy, though we could never consider either as a role model. I loved the show for its complex characters, compelling stories and quintessential attention to detail as it recreated the 1960s’ style, language and social perspectives. I also enjoyed its setting — a Madison Avenue advertising agency — and experiencing Don and his partners pitch traditional, media-based ad campaigns.
While watching, I would sometimes think about the operation of ad agencies versus PR agencies. In practice, the business model is similar; both advertising and public relations professionals seek out potential clients and compete with other agencies for the opportunity to work for them. However, once a client signs on, what PR and ad agencies do and the results they can achieve are significantly different, as the chart illustrates.
But social media has changed some aspects of the chart. For example, it notes advertising has “complete creative control” while in public relations, “media controls final version.” This is no longer true in the world of online communication. PR people DO control the creative content in their clients’ blogs, web sites, social media platforms, online video, and photography. And as the chart notes, public relations — especially in the new media age– can have far more impact than traditional advertising. And that’s the point: the agencies of yesterday have been forced to accept change or become irrelevant.
The same goes for traditional media. After a great run in the second half of the 20th century, print journalism, AM and FM radio, and broadcast television have seen shrinking audiences due to tremendous shifts in how we consume news and entertainment. There’s no way to accurately predict how they’ll ultimately survive.
Like the agency in which he worked, Don Draper has ended his run. He’d never recognize today’s ad and PR agencies. Fortunately, most advertising and PR professionals have been adapting to the changes. They’ve had to. Your thoughts?