Graduation Year

Spring 2014

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Intercollegiate Media Studies

Reader 1

James Morrison

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© John Flannery, 2014. All rights reserved.


Developments in advertising are necessarily tied to shifts in media technology – by this very fact, the industry has changed significantly since the 1960s. In the 21st century, ad men have to contend with an increasingly complex and fractured digital landscape. Big, traditional ad agencies – like those depicted in the popular television series Mad Men – no longer dominate; instead, they are forced to compete with a growing class of digital marketing start-ups for a stake in tomorrow’s adscape. Innovative ad serving technologies, instead of creative-driven campaigns, rule the day. Internet technologies have created an environment in which identifying and engaging consumers on an individual level is entirely possible; in effect, the software engineers and data scientists capable of executing these types of campaigns – the “Math Men” – have become the new industry luminaries.

And yet, there is still something to be said about the importance of a sentimental bond between the consumer and product. The type of advertising practiced by Don Draper and his real-life counterparts is based in a fundamental truth about human decision-making: emotions are an integral aspect of information-processing. While there is truth to the Math Men’s core principle that, “Advertising should deliver the right information to the right person at the right time,” There is a good reason that brands such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and GE – all vestiges of the Mad Men era – remain some of the most valuable and celebrated in the world. The paper will argue that the future of powerful ad content is dependent upon an appreciation of the Mad Men's creative philosophy, emboldened by an understanding of the ways in which media – and by extension ad serving technology – has advanced since the 1960s.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.