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In the Mad Men Season 7 Episode "The Monolith", the Agency SC&P are installing the IBM System/360 Computer and especially the Creative Department seems very upset about that. But it seems strange to me that the acquisition of a computer for an advertisement agency would be a problem of competition for the creatives. After all computers (just as today) are pretty bad in making appealing art. If at all it should render the jobs of full-time data-analysts and accountants redundant as their data can be processed faster and better. Such is also the explanation of the IBM System/360 of ACM's Mad Men 60s Handbook and a Harvard Business Review article.

Setting the psychotic reaction of Michael Ginsberg aside, from the viewers perspective it is still mostly the people working in the Creative Department that seem upset by the installation of the computer. Adding to that, from my perspective it is never really explained in the series why the agency would need a computer in the first place. The story-wise explanation is that in a meeting with a client Harry Crane lied in saying that they already had a computer, a resulting inquiry by the Washington Post was then used as a pretence to actually getting one.

So the questions are: Why would SC&P need a computer? And why would that upset the Creative Department, iff their jobs wouldn't really be affected?

  • Given that this is literally the first computer that many of them have seen, could it not be that they're scared of it, because they don't know what it's capable of? – user7812 Jan 6 '16 at 18:26
  • IIRC, Michael Ginsburg's (very neurotic) character was born in a concentration camp and would be aware of the role IBM machines played in German efforts to track Jewish citizens. His reaction was a general sort of paranoia. – Yorik Jan 6 '16 at 20:28
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Advertising Agencies aren't just about the creative, there's also the analytical. The creative is the showy side, but the analytical is where the money is made.

It's about digging through marketing data, demographic data, consumer behavior date, etc, etc. Essentially the stuff that drives companies like Amazon and Google today.

The computer would have been for data analysis and storage. And having said tool would have been something the firm could use to better market their services to new clients.

That the creatives 'feared' it was more for fun storytelling. Introducing some additional antagonism to the characters.

  • Yes, I thought as much myself. It seems that after all it was just a funny story-arc which I may have been taken too seriously. But thanks for your astute summary of what it would have been used, if the series writers would have given it more explanation (although I would disagree that in an ad agency the creatives are 'just' the showy side - they are in the end generating that which the clients were investing and coming for in the first place ;) ). – alex Jan 7 '16 at 9:07
  • @alex "showy" in the sense of "interesting to watch on TV". I can't think of a very succesful show that focused mainly on accountants and media buys. :) – DA. Jan 7 '16 at 15:05

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