How does Don Draper do it?

The dapper protagonist of AMC’s “Mad Men” creates some of the most intriguing and effective marketing campaigns for his clients, who demand perfection each and every time. Before the social marketing and research tools we enjoy today, Draper just sits at the conference room table with his glass of neat whiskey and the ideas appear from thin air. So how does he do it?

He doesn’t, and neither does anyone else in the advertising/marketing industry. “Mad Men” is a fantastic show, but in 2013 the skills and tools used to build campaigns won’t be found in a show about 1960s advertising from Madison Avenue. There are, however, some TV shows airing out there that give some useful tips concerning just how it’s done in the real world.

The Pitch (AMC)

Sometimes known as “AMC’s other advertising show,” “The Pitch” is a reality show that follows several ad agencies that compete and pitch for a company’s marketing campaign. In a world of awful reality television, this show actually accomplishes two important tasks. First, it shows us that advertising is not glamorous. It’s not Don Draper with the glass of whiskey. It’s moving through countless drafts of copy, hoping one will stick to the wall for a client’s approval.

The second, it shows us that ads are not always groundbreaking or award winning. The first episode of “The Pitch” features two agencies competing for Subway’s new breakfast sandwich campaign. Each agency tries to create culturally-shifting work, but Jeff Larson, Subway’s vice president of global marketing, simply wanted an ad that made the viewer think, “That looks good. I want to eat that right now.” Not every piece of marketing is Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl commercial.

Shark Tank (ABC)

Marketing your product to a customer is one thing, marketing to an investor is another. On “Shark Tank,” new entrepreneurs have to sell their ideas to some of the toughest investors in the business, like Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. The guests on the show pitch their new or existing businesses to the panel of celebrity investors hoping they’ll pitch some money from their own pockets toward the idea’s success.

The lesson of this show? Marketing your own product can sometimes be more challenging than doing it for someone else. What is that value of your product? Why should everyone want it? How is it going to make money? Those are all questions you need to answer for yourself before convincing an investor to believe what you have to say.

TechStars (Web)

If you’re involved in tech startups, this is a show you can’t miss. Created by Bloomberg, top names in the tech industry? Twitter, Google, Microsoft? put tech entrepreneurs through a boot camp training them to build a competitive business from the ground up. The process is grueling, but the guidance from the industry professionals gives great insight on some of the insider tips. A plus for this one is that it’s an Internet show. According to, a satellite package starts around $30, so that’s a few dollars saved if you’re looking for informative content.

Even if you don’t work in tech or for a startup, the lessons learned are valuable toward marketing new products and ideas. One tech blogger recalled a trip to an Atlanta startup convention and highlighted points learned that you might never pick up in the corporate world.