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What Would Don Draper Tweet?: Ad Man Integrates Social Media Into Coursework

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Image via TJ Ryan on Flickr

Image via TJ Ryan on Flickr
By Esther D. Kustanowitz, Special to LAist

If “Mad Men” has taught us anything, it’s that advertising is all about the client and the product. But a “Mad Man” for the technology age urges ad firms to put the Don Draper era behind them and consider the consumer in a new manner: through the lens and the interactive venue of today’s social media tools.

By his own admission at the 140 Characters Conference (held last week at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood), Hank Wasiak has lived the “Mad Men” experience. He explained to the crowd of Twitter enthusiasts (this writer among them) that he had started at an advertising firm that he described as “the mirror image” of the fictional Sterling Cooper, an image that included similar clients, attitudes toward sex and drinking, and where they were “smoking something a lot stronger than Lucky Strikes.” It was a time, he says, when “the guys in suits showed us what we wanted to be and what we wanted to buy.” Until now, the essentials of advertising hadn’t changed. But after having witnessed everything in the business for the last five decades, he realized that “social media created the watershed moment.”

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While prepping to teach a class at USC’s Marshall School of Business in “Advertising and Promotion Strategy,” Wasiak realized that today’s educational programs are hopelessly out of date. “People look at the business and see doom and gloom, but my enthusiasm is higher than ever, because social media is the killer app, a game changer that’s changing the fundamentals of marketing and advertising,” he said, pointing to three ways: the marketing mix, the way we look at advertising and the metrics for success.

Originally, Wasiak explained, they spoke about the four pillars of advertising as Product, Price, Place and Promotion. Initially, social media was put under promotion, which was ok then but not now. Social media morphed into the fifth pillar, which Wasiak called “People.” “If a company doesn’t have a people strategy, close up shop - you’re not going to make it. The five P’s of marketing will change everything you do - how you organize, monetize, everything you do.” He also spoke of the acronym AIDA: Attention, Interest, Desire and Action, which “was ok then, not now.” Now you have to add E for engagement, he said, noting that “consumers want to talk among themselves before they want to talk to the brand.” He also suggested the addition of S, for sustainability or shareability. “Something you create will live way beyond the context you created it for. Creatives don’t get that yet.”

Companies of the future will be purpose-driven and operate in the spheres of trust and truth, collaboration, and aspiration, Wasiak said, turning into “companies that act more like human beings.” Now advertising has a three-tiered profit structure, he noted: “dollars, emotional profit for stakeholders, and greater good profit for community around you.”

Wasiak urged the attendees to embrace makeovers for both their mindsets and business models, “from shouting and selling to sharing and helping, to spend time in conversation with consumers…and go from being Don Draper to being a maestro conducting coordinated communications.” He coined the term “collabotition”: “The days of saying we can do it all are over,” he said, urging people toward “collaboration with likeminded competitors who will work with us as a collective." He pointed out that his firm is called The Concept Farm for just such a reason.

He summarized with words which would scandalize Betty Draper, but which left this particular audience thrilled and inspired. “If Don Draper were here, he wouldn’t like what he sees. But I do. And people involved in advertising should be thrilled to see where advertising is going."

Esther D. Kustanowitz (@estherk on Twitter) is thrilled to see where advertising - and every field - is going in the age of social media. You can read more of her work at and

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