Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/saintmarche/6988345225/

Mad Men, AMC’s award-winning series, will begin its sixth season this April.

As I’m sure most of you know, this 1960’s period drama revolves around the life of advertising executive Don Draper. . . and what a life he has. As The New York Times crooned when the series first began:

“The magic of “Mad Men” is that it softly spoofs those cruel, antiquated mores (of the ‘60s) without draining away the romance of that era: the amber-lit bars and indigo nightclubs, soaring skyscrapers, smoky railway cars and the brash confidence that comes with winning a war and owning the world. It’s a sardonic love letter to the era that wrought “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” and “The Best of Everything,” but homage is paid with more affection than satire.”

But, peel away the so-called “romance of that era,” and what are you left with?

A portrayal of “old-school” advertising which, at least for me, doesn’t seem very glamorous, at all. In fact, just off the top of my head, I can think of several significant reasons why today’s brightest marketing and advertising execs –for the purposes of this blog post, let’s call them the “Math Men” –are vastly superior to anything you’ll see while watching Mad Men.

Math Men aren’t only men. Women now comprise 47 percent of the US work force, account for 57 percent of US undergraduates and spend more than 70 percent of consumer dollars worldwide. However, the vast majority of women say advertisers still don’t understand them. We’re fortunate to have more and more women pursuing careers in marketing. Clearly, the industry needs their insights and expertise to tap into the full potential of female buyers.

Actually, Math Men don’t fit any kind of stereotype. Don Draper personifies the suave, smooth-talking, smoke-blowing creative cliché. But, today’s Math Men can’t be so easily typecast. They’re a diverse bunch backed by a broad skill set that includes not just the art of marketing, but the science of data, as well. Math Men have backgrounds in computational analysis, marketing, psychology, business . . . and they understand how to create business value from big data. Today’s Math Men are also dynamic change agents –because they know that both marketing and the data now driving the customer experience are constantly evolving.

Math Men are accountable to consumers. These days, consumers are in control, and it’s imperative for marketers to build trust and embrace transparency across all channels and platforms. Companies that shirk from this responsibility –remember those tobacco ads from the 1950s and 60s? –risk their reputations and their revenues. Math Men understand that today’s consumers appreciate honesty in advertising, and they realize it’s easier than ever for customers to verify product claims. Need proof? Check out our recent research regarding “showrooming,” i.e., when consumers visit physical stores to try products, but then check a mobile device for the best price online.

Math Men are accountable to the C-suite. Marketing and advertising strategies are no longer based on hunches or personalities or the quality of the cocktails served. Instead, Math Men rely on data-driven insights. They use integrated marketing technologies to guide them toward their revenue goals, and as result, they can offer the C-suite instant (and verifiable) visibility into spending, campaign ROI, customer satisfaction measures, market share growth, etc.

Math Men tear down silos. Old-school Mad Men enjoyed a certain separateness within the company. For today’s Math Men, exactly the opposite is true. Marketing now permeates virtually all aspects of the enterprise, and that means marketers must step up to the plate. They must combine their multifaceted expertise with today’s sophisticated tools to drive change across all departments within their organizations.

I could go on with this list, but I’m betting you get the idea.

You see, there’s no doubt about it: Mad Men is entertaining TV–and the critics certainly agree with me on that. But, as someone who has been a part of this industry for the past 30 years, I’m glad to be working now, in the era of the Math Men.