The rules of Madison Avenue were created by those involved in the game of advertising.
Mad Men captures what it was like behind the scenes of a growing frontier with opportunities up for grabs at every corner. Are there lessons to glean about the content world from the golden age of advertising?
Ruth Franklin wrote a critical analysis of the show on the New Republic. She said the show "takes us behind the scenes of the branding of American icons -- Lucky Strike cigarettes, Hilton hotels, Life cereal -- to show us not how the products themselves were created, but how their 'very sexy ... very magical' images were dreamed up..."
It can be argued that there is a parallel between how content creators win today as they once did in the Mad Men world.
Here are a few lessons Roger, Joan and Don would teach us if we were newbies at Sterling Cooper Draper Price.
You can only break the rules of the game once you are an expert at them.
Roger Sterling is a consistent rule breaker. That said he clearly understands how to navigate business relationships. He is a savant when it comes to getting a meeting with an influencer. We can all learn something from Roger's strategic approach to his own rolodex. In the content world sometimes one relationship can give you that first opportunity to publish something to a wider audience. Always keep in mind you must provide value, and understand the motivations of the publisher if there are any. That opportunity can multiply. The rules of the game are determined by people, and it's important to understand people on an intuitive level.
Use what your mama gave you? Joan Harris went from secretary to office manager to partner in 13 years. She said in Season 5, "My mother always taught me to be admired." She plays the role of the charming, witty and feminine ideal -- that is until you cross her. If you do, look out. This last season Joan shocked us all when she crossed the line to achieve a partner position -- she proved willing to go any length to get ahead. If this were Joan today in 2013, and she did something scandalous online, it would absolutely surface to haunt her. While Joan can teach us how to be charming, she also serves as a cautionary tale. It's a small world, and if you have a feeling what you're about to do could come back to haunt you, or ruin your reputation -- don't do it. Short term gains are not worth the long term implications of souring your reputation. Integrity is important. I do not endorse how she Joan became partner. But one might ask, is your content enchanting like Joan?
Say it with gusto. There's a lot to gain from being a thought leader. You can get new jobs, clients and promotions. You are invited to special events. The lines are blurring between thought leader and journalist. On a related note some say that being a journalist is a little like being a lawyer. Whether you realize it or not, you're arguing a position -- that takes confidence. Don Draper is nothing if not confident. He speaks with intent. His delivery is direct. While it's not wise to come off as arrogant in your writing, you must believe in what you're saying -- otherwise how can you expect anyone else to believe in it? Don would never use self-effacing terminology. He rarely asks for permission, apologizes or uses minimizing phrases such as "like, you know or don't you think?" He speaks with gusto and you should too.
As a final note, if you ever have doubts about your own content understand that even the script for the Emmy award-winning show Mad Men was tabled for seven years. If you are building content don't give up. This stuff takes time, dedication and consistency. With persistence and patience you will get there!