Scott Monty

 

When I first heard about AMC's series Mad Men, I was going to pass. I thought, "Uh oh. Here's a chance for a network to unleash all that's unholy on the industry that it already forces to bend over and take it in the upfronts every year."

I've seen Hollywood try to recreate the Madison Avenue scene before - from Darrin Stevens on Bewitched to Bruce Willis' role in Perfect Stranger, the ad man goes from bumbling to evil. And somehow, the TV and movie industry doesn't understand the divide between creatives and account executives.

So it was with great trepidation that I programmed the DVR for Mad Men. But I was pleasantly surprised, for a number of reasons.

First off, it's fair to say that the production value is top-notch. The wardrobe, props, setting, etc. are all genuine, so that it really feels like you're looking through a window to 1960. Even the title sequence is vintage 1950s-60s, echoing a homier yet hipper time. While the smoking may be overdone, the habit of drinking in the office leaves me feeling a little nostalgic...

And the writing - from a former Sopranos executive producer - is stellar. There's lots going on underneath the shiny surface of this period piece, and you can tell it's going to get pretty dark.

So much for the nuts and bolts of the production. Let's move on to advertising and social media and how those come in to play.

As I began to fast-forward through my recorded episode 30 seconds at a time, I noticed an interesting feature. Done in the same font and style of the title sequence, there are little 10-second facts and trivia about many of the advertisers for the show. Things like:
  • Jack Daniels took the meaning of 'Old No. 7' to the grave
  • More dollars are spent on drug advertising than soda advertising
  • Bud Light debuted nationally in: 1982
And then they throw in some industry wisdom such as:
  • "The enemies of advertising are the enemies of freedom" - David Olgivy
  • "I'll put the accuracy of the average ad in this country up against the accuracy of the average news story any time" - Jef I. Richards
  • "An advertising agency is 85% confusion and 15% commission" - Fred Allen
Let me tell you, as someone who typically tries to avoid the 30-second spot in my TV viewing, this innovative approach is really getting me to stop. I may or may not watch the ads after the trivia, but I'm more likely to, just to see how they're following it up.

I'm also impressed with the interactive / social media components on the show's web site. Clearly, they're looking to make themselves part of their viewers' everyday lives, with the likes of typical downloads such as wallpapers and screensavers. But they go one farther with offering instant messaging icons.

And while many shows feature a discussion board or community forum, Man Men has decided to build its community via...a blog. There's typically a summary of each show, as well as announcements or interviews, and the commenting started out slowly. But the last two posts about the episodes garnered 300-400 comments each, as of this posting.

I'm looking forward to the story arc and to seeing more of a glimpse into the past of the storied Madison Avenue game. Just call me a mad man.


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