Like many things in the digital age, it was fun while it lasted.
A number of the Twitter accounts of Mad Men characters have been shut down by Twitter due to a DMCA complaint from AMC. @don_draper and @peggyolson are no longer. It turns out that some, possibly all, were fan fiction.
The author behind Paul Kinsey's twitter account has revealed himself, even offered to hand over the profile.
Too bad, AMC was handed a golden opportunity to further grow the Mad Men brand, grow the narrative beyond the one hour of week content, and draw fans closer to the show.
Oh well, was fun while it lasted.
True irony comes from a bin of unwanted trucker hats abandoned in a Goodwill store on the backside of Main St. Walla Walla Washington. Here's what it looks like, waiting quietly for local college students and hipster bands rolling through town.
Note: for European reader the trucker hat reference may not cross the pond. Maybe an equal corollary would be a bin of Royal Post caps in the Oxfam shop around the corner from a small town's main square. Still not following me, then this street guide to irony will help.
To add to the rambles on intventiveness and interestingness, here are some example of brands who believe in something and have something to say for three three examples of modern brand interestingess
Mad Men has won loads of acclaim, and grabbed onto the torch of best show on TV last year. AMC has entered the world of twitter to add another dimension to the character. Even in the digital world they don't break character when interacting with us real folks.
EA and Tiger Woods respond to a YouTuber:
That latest uber brand out there Michael Phelps is quite the Facebooker and gives a nod to his one million plus Facebook fans.
"Once you've become a specialist there is the danger of developing a skewed viewpoint on the things you research. It is vital to communicate with 'normal' human beings."
In the advertising game it's tough to remain a generalist. Either because you choose a particular discipline or happen to work in a particular corner of an agency and get labeled by what they "do" in that group.
Specialists are great, really great when you have a great one, but few truly are specialists. Often we forget that advertising, marketing, communications or whatever you want to call it is a specialization unto itself. Often one gets labeled a specialist because of a body of knowledge, but isn't specialization really when you have applicable expertise in an area not just know a lot about it? For example knowing how to design a wonderful consumer experience on a website. Or tell a great story through moving picture and sound in a :30 commercial. Manage the torrent of media in a crisis.
I've always faught specialization in what I do, and have passed up many opportunities because of it. At times felt less cool because of it. But it has been a conscious effort to master the expertise of managing a brand accross multiple hyper specializations. Orchestrating a team of specialists to work together towards a final output bigger than each on their own. It's not better or subservient to hyper specilization, it 's just different. A skill good for some clients/brands, and unecessary for other. Which is why I loved the above quote. Working with hyper specialists much time is devoted to opening of eyes beyond the skew of what they know. Don't get me wrong though, the skew can be a good thing. Sometimes it's necessary to get something fascinating or avoid paralasys of too much knowledge.
Though it does seem that more and more the most interesting things are coming from crossover artists, specialists who move outside their area or masters of one craft with interest in another.
One of my favorites who pops up in the press every so often in John Jay. An art expert, music maven, fashionista, chinese mythology expert and ECD at Wieden Kenned. A busy mix of expertise. His bilingual magazine, which doesn't post often is fascinating when he does. People you can't define are often the most intersting.
Now if only I can find a photo that represents the generalist.
It's hard to argue we don't live in a time of hyper change. The hyper denotation is important because any point in time is a time of change but some points entail more change than others.
The business world is experiencing this to the greatest extent. Not the mom and pop or the corner grocery store. The big business. It is no longer possible to cover up poor or commodity products with a blanket ad campaign or buying up more share of voice than the competitors.
However, it's so easy for folks and groups of decision makers to latch onto 'things' to try and solve this or as a life raft. The industry media does a great job of fueling this "Display Ads Change Everything" or "Experiential Events Change Everything" and so on.
It's so easy to try and categorize and find 'things' to solve symptoms dredged up in routine research and brand tracking. "We need a Facebook strategy damn it" echos from the halls of the corporate world. But this is just a temporary fix to meeting the cat calls of shareholders or boardmembers. But we're still working out what brands can and can't successfully use these tools and in what ways they work best. For some they work brillianlty, for others they fail tragically.
It does make sense as years of military and corporate protocol have made not knowing a fireable offense, that said the Enron and Bear Sterns folks always "knew" what they were doing when reporting up the chain of command.
But the red herring in all this is trying to find the things that will fix a problem. The great thing about today is that there truely really aren't that many problems that products don't already solve. The only real problem is interestingness, or lack of it.
Some of the most interesting thinking these days is coming out of marketing firms with a strong design focus. The design arena has good discipline to how they approach problems and they make products themselves more interesting.
Business Week covers a lot of great design innovations and innovators. This was a great article as it poses the challenges of change at a very high level, not about the 'things' we make or produce but starting at the core of what makes a brand different and desirable. I love the way they set up today's world:
Imagine a crazy wonderland where most of what you learned in business school is either upside down or backward. A land where customers control the company, jobs are avenues of self-expression, the barriers to competition are out of your control, strangers design your products, fewer features are better, advertising drives customers away, demographics are beside the point, whatever you sell you take back, and best practices are obsolete at birth. Meaning talks, money walks, and stability is fantasy. Talent trumps obedience, imagination beats knowledge, and empathy trounces logic.
The catch is this crazy wonderland is today. We've never had more ability to be interesting and fascinate consumers with interesting well made products. Products that are beatiful, intuitive and simply stunning to look at. Consumers may and should have input but expertise, crafts peoples and great creative thinkers will make them truely remarkable.
Call it interestingness, inventiveness or something else but if we're entering an era where excellence of design and interestingness of a brand's world view trump shelf space and distribution points, it's a great time to be doing what we do...
The Olympic games have been stunning, both in their breadth of coverage and the drama unfolding on the field of play. The secondary battle, that of the advertisers is also fascinating to watch, but far less dramatic. In Canada we have the benefit of accessing both our domestic coverage on CBC and also the US feed on NBC, the quality of advertising couldn't be more different.
Canadian brands associated with the Olympics have focused on spending millions of dollars to talk about the thousands of dollars they give starving athletes to fulfill their "dreams." That's you Rona, Royal Bank, Petro Canada and Visa. It's insincere and shameful. The one Olympic brand in Canada who's doing it right in GM, yep, old rusty is doing something right. They are just plowing ahead with vehicle advertising with a small Olympic tag on the end, they focus their sport dollars on funding teams directly and supporting grass roots programs nationally. Alpine skiing and Hockey (granted not summer sports) are great examples of sports they give better competition venues for 12-16 year old athletes, just what they need in order to become Olympians.
The advertising on NBC is polar opposite, it's heroic, iconic, and makes the athletes superstars. They are strong personable and well fed. It's about the athletes, their accomplishments and dedication to sport, not some brand pretending to be a benefactor. Maybe it's just part of a winning attitude American's tend to embody more openly that Canadians, and maybe that's why headlines in the US this week are about medals won, not when they will win their first.
Here's my favorite Olympic themed spots of the year, they aren't on NBC, but you got to love all things Phelps:
In the battle between who will win the next industrial era, mass markets or the long tale, the third option looks really appealing. Thanks to emerging markets and distributive technology lowering the barriers and costs to entering markets new businesses in markets old, renewed and new are popping up everywhere. At the same time mass brands and business models continue to grow, globalise, and remain incredibly popular. So what's up with that, who's going to win? Well maybe there is a third option.
Take music as an example. There have always been more great bands than record contracts, even record contracts for bad bands. Today we can access, buy, and enjoy pretty much any band anywhere in the world from the comfort of our own home. Just check out this great series of events in Chicago, through KEXP out of Seattle organized by an old college friend showcasing multi genre emerging talent. Loads of great bands for your mp3 files. And so that pleasure of sharing the newest and niftiest band to your friends has never been easier. You have great power to express your individuality.
At the same time big bands are still huge. If you look at overall purchases of music, whether legal or illegal, people are still listening to a huge volume of highly popular music. A shared enjoyment of a song or band that everyone in a room knows is what brings us together, makes us feel like a part of this thing called the human race. Maybe you don't like Coldplay, but you can certainly discuss Coldplay and most folks you went nuts over JayZ at the Pemberton Festival a couple weeks ago and went just as nuts for Coldplay in a frothing sea of humanity.
A mass and grass view can be taken to other categories, take fashion for instance hipsters signal belonging with their Converse Chuck Taylors but individuality with hand picked limited run t-shirts.
Or say alcoholic beverages, ever been to a party or event where folks enjoy a couple of Stella beers to start off then sit down for dinner with a wine from a small local winery that the host is raving about.
The good news is that consumers generally don't actively care whether you are mass or grass, they just like things they find interesting or useful. Sometimes it's about fitting it and being part of something bigger than you, other times it's all about you and being different. And there is no reason brands can't be both. So that third option sure looks good.