Mad Men v.s. Math Men
Today, the breed of Mad Men like Don Draper, whose mad genius once ruled the advertising world, is being dethroned by the emerging crop of Math Men, who specialize in utilizing data science and algorithms to harvest consumer insights. The technology that emerged in the past two decades has provided the perfect soil for the Math Men to thrive. Don is getting more and more depressed, as he can foresee a future where creative geniuses like him will exit the stage and disappear in the wave of history. But is that so? Has this transformed digital era forced the traditional Mad Men into extinction?
Jim Lecinski, a former VP at Google and current Medill IMC Professor, believes that we are still too early to assert whether AI is going to transform the existing marketing world entirely: “Big-budget brands like Nike, IKEA and Sephora are pioneering AI for marketing, but most advertisers don’t have their resources, so they’re focusing on more immediate marketing efforts.”
It is inevitable that today’s marketing decisions are more geared toward data collection due to the increasing demand for 1-on-1 personalized marketing. As companies today are relentlessly collecting consumer data, it is essential for AI to step in to extract insights and continuously learn from past trends. However, a talented marketing team is irreplaceable.
As Lecinski stated: “Success requires a combination, a partnership of humans AND machines.” The utilization of AI and machine learning can only be effective if deployed by a talented, sophisticated marketing team that can come up with a rock-solid marketing strategy to acquire, retain, grow its customer relationships, and promote customer advocacy.
In the well-known science fiction masterpiece Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Phillip K. Dicks depicted a world where artificial intelligence has gained empathy and lived like human beings. As we look at the world 60 years after the book was written, this dream does not seem to be so far-fetched. Artificial intelligence technologies are aggressively taking over the marketing world and getting access to brands, both big and small.
It would be an appropriate time to start dreaming big and asking where AI will lead us to in the future. The marketers of the new generation should not categorize themselves in either the “Mad Men” or the “Math Men” faction.