Mad Men is arguably my favourite show on air right now. It’s quality television at its finest; populated with chain-smoking, alcohol-guzzling yet fleshed out and flawed characters, each episode is impeccably penned, designed so that the different storylines eventually converge into the one theme that encapsulates them all. Authenticity too takes a front seat: the series is known for its extreme attention to detail. The herculean efforts placed into historical research, set design, props and costumes (and that’s only the tip of the iceberg) are nothing short of amazing–and with such beautiful results. Even the minute and seemingly mundane details are taken into account, such as the authentic Highlights children magazine that was only casually flipped through. The fact that this show is so closely tied to marketing is just a bonus. For these very reasons, I thirstily crawl back to the well every week with antsy anticipation.
To give you a little taste of Mad Men‘s genius, below is main character Don Draper pitching his idea for Kodak’s new slide projector, which is meant to appeal consumers emotionally in order to connect with them on a deeper level. (Not coincidentally, this scene in turn evokes pathos in the viewer.)
The premise and setting of the show allows for some serious marketing. Each episode focuses on at least one household name brand as a client at the ad agency. And you know what that means! That’s right–product placements. And there has been a lot of them. Over the span of four seasons, a multitude of brands that are still familiar with us today have been featured, including Heineken, Clearasil, Gillette, London Fog, Honda, and most recently, Mountain Dew… just to name a few.
Funnily enough, the show about advertising does not resort to much traditional advertising itself. In fact, according to Ad Age, Mad Men draws in unimpressive ad revenues, with perhaps its relatively low viewership–in comparison to the stats of major networks–to blame. Nevertheless, this hurdle does not appear to be hindering its crescendoing success. Not only has Mad Men sweeped the Emmys for Best Drama Series three consecutive years in a row, it is also the first cable network television show to win the category back-to-back. The series’ massive cultural influence has left an indelible mark in pop culture, too. You know you’ve made it into the mainstream when you’ve been parodied endlessly on the internet, showcased on Saturday Night Live and spoofed on Sesame Street! What’s more is that current social trends allow the series to take the marketing road less travelled; Mad Men capitalises on society’s fascination and reverence for all things vintage and classic. So what have been some of their marketing ventures? There has been the online avatar-maker Mad Men Yourself for the techies; the casting call competition for the creatively-minded; the vintage Barbie dolls for the collectors; and their collaboration with Banana Republic for the fashion-conscious.
As an observer of the ample opportunities within and outside the show, I daresay marketing and Mad Men were meant to be a match made in heaven from the very start.