Brand advertising in the 1950s and 1960s evolved in part to reproduce the feeling of familiarity consumers once had with product makers. The changes brought on by the industrial revolution triggered a shift in the way people bought products. The local bazaars, markets, and shopkeepers gave way to, first, chartered organizations and then corporations. Mass media helped to deliver a brand personality and relationship with consumers through radio and television before the new product hit the shelves. This model was built on brands as fictionalized narratives, the Marlboro Man and Aunt Jemima. The stuff of Mad Men.
The audiences as defined by the Mad Men of the 1950s and 1960s were borrowed from radio, print or television. The strategy for nearly every campaign Don Draper has whipped up was a variation of the theme: design an ad and place it adjacent to what people are reading or watching. In this sense, the audience, as defined by the Mad Men of the 1950s and 1960s, was in reality not the brand’s audience but borrowed from media. As one of the original Mad Men, Howard Gossage put it, “when advertising talks about its audience, it doesn’t mean its audience, it means somebody else gathered there to watch or read something else.”
This is an important shift because the audiences on Mad Men – the folks in the focus groups – have disappeared and in their place are humans with incredible editorial control over the brand and messages they encounter. NYU’s Jay Rosen has described this transformation as “the people formerly known as the audience.”
The integration of paid (borrowed audiences) to an earned media (adjacent content), and the brand as a content creator would usher in a wave of change through the halls of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.