This Is the Golden Age of Advertising

Mad Men Era Was Dark Ages Compared to Digital Renaissance

By Published on .

We are in our Golden Age. Sorry, it wasn't the age of Mad Men. Those were the Dark Ages. I, like most, worship those days. It had its appeal. There were brilliant people creating at that time. But looking back, they had so few tools the effort were the equivalent of beating a log drum compared to conducting a symphony orchestra. Today we have the opportunity to engage a consumer in a duet compared to singing a solo to them. Listening to a song entertains, but singing along makes you a part of the music. The human appeal to communication today and the advertising of yesterday is like comparing traveling across country in 2011 versus doing so in the 1850s.

We are in the most exciting time of marketing history. It's the equivalent of the Renaissance after the Dark Ages. If you have ever studied art history you learn that The Dark Ages weren't that dark. There was classic thought and art created. But, if the flower sprouted during the Dark Ages, it bloomed in the Renaissance. Compare the two periods and you realize why the Dark Ages gets the bad rap.

The digital age is our Renaissance. It is a palate of options that at first is overwhelming and then enthralling. Teressa Iezzi, editor of Ad Age sibling Creativity , has brought this opportunity into focus in her book, The Idea Writers: Copywriting in a New Media and Marketing Era.

I began reading Iezzi's book with a set of expectations that were soon shattered. Only a few pages into "The Idea Writers" I realized it was the articulation of what my agency had become. The book gave articulation to everyone's role. We were all idea writers. Our planning and creative process had merged for that reason, and the more we embraced the power it gave us to solve our clients' problems, the more free we became to create as individuals.

My agency realized this metamorphosis over the last few years as a natural result of our commitment to solve business problems using marketing principles. We seized any tool useful to better communicate and engage. This approach blurred everyone's role. It challenged our individuality, the very security of our uniqueness. This challenge was hard on every department, not just creative. It was more challenging on the experienced than the young.

The simple truth is that those leading our industry forward are those who accept that we are no longer represented by superstars, but super teams.

Industry players are now the equivalent of a Roman legion. A unit that fights as a phalanx rather than the charge of the Light Brigade. Every member of our team realizes that we are all creative. We are all strategists and account managers. We are all media planners. Yes, we each have our individual role based upon a particular craft, but no one lives in a silo. No one sits upon a pedestal.

I purchased a copy of "The Idea Writers" for each of our employees because I want to reinforce to them why they no longer define themselves by their craft, but by what the truly do. Idea writers write media plans. They write social media. They write strategy. They write brand stories. Together we all write the brand story.

You may feel this is simply semantics. Coordination between agency functions has always been symbiotic at its most successful. But coordination is cooperation, not creation. If you're not convinced, read "The Idea Writers." The book reviews our industry's transformation and the opportunity the digital age has given to our industry. As in any transformation there is resistance to change. There is fear of losing that which we hold sacred, but what if that sacred thing is the seed and not the fruit?

Bart Cleveland is partner, creative director, McKee Wallwork Cleveland, Albuquerque, N.M.
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