Ernie Capobianco is CEO of data-driven marketing firm Sq1, an agency that uses conversion optimization to drive predictive modeling.

Previously, Ernie was CFO of a multinational billion-dollar traditional ad agency, and seeing his former employer's clients pour money into marketing campaigns without any way to measure return inspired him to build a new type of agency that uses conversion optimization to drive predictive modeling.

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When he's not taking the guesswork out of advertising spend, Ernie enjoys watching the AMC period drama Mad Men, which follows the lives of 1960s Madison Avenue advertising professionals.


Now in its final season, the show was the first basic cable series ever to win the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series in four consecutive years.

I invited Ernie to Marketing Smarts to discuss the series finale of Mad Men on AMC, how accurately that period drama about advertising professionals captured the industry of that time, and the evolution of marketing.

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

Today's marketing isn't about big personalities—it's about Big Data (05:05): "Back in [Don] Draper's day, [data] wasn't even considered, but what we do is look at all the analytics that are currently available in marketing.... There's a ton of new tools available to understand who's actually interacting with your brand, when they're buying something online, what sites they go to, all tied to demographic data and al that. It's crazy information. We've modeled our company based upon predictive models, based upon sample sizes, and A/B testing, multivariate testing. [What we do is] creative, but it's based upon facts and data. In Draper's day, they didn't really have facts and data. It was based on personalty: how they could sell it into the client. And if it didn't work, they wouldn't know until three months later, and they would go ahead and change the ad.... There was no way to attribute sales to the messaging at all."

Don Draper's advice still holds: If you don't like what's being said, change the conversation (06:53): "You just change the conversation. And how do you do it today? By listening to what people are actually saying. So now we have the tools to actually change the conversation, both from a social media point of view and from a mass media point of view. And we're able to measure when we do change the conversation if it resonates, by just doing sample sizes. You could change your landing page, for example, where half the audience might receive one page, the other half randomly would receive a different page. Totally different, same site, and then you see which one performs better. He's right: let's change the conversation to one that resonates with the consumers. That's what listening's all about."

Truly brilliant creative minds were (and are) rare in the advertising industry (07:44): "What really works for ad agencies that worked back then is creativity, of course. You could have just brilliant, brilliant creative ideas, creative folks within your shop, and those guys who have those brilliant, creative minds will always be a step ahead of the game. It's so hard to find a Don Draper. They're so few and far between. I've been in this business for over 25 years, and I've seen just a handful of folks that I would consider to be truly great on the creative side. It's a bell curve."

To learn more, visit, or follow the agency on Twitter: @Sq1.

Ernie and I talked about much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

This episode brought to you by CallidusCloud.

Special thanks to production sponsor Candidio, an efficient, affordable video production platform allowing marketers and communicators to collaborate and curate video content, with help from a team of professional, on-demand video editors for the finishing touches. Check them out!

Show opener music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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