Ad Women take on Mad Men

Set in a New York ad agency circa 1960, the critically acclaimed AMC series Mad Men has intrigued the adverati since it launched in July.

Set in a New York ad agency circa 1960, the critically acclaimed AMC series Mad Men has intrigued the adverati since it launched in July.

Since 32% of its 25-to-54 aud have household incomes over $100,000, the show has a high rate of PVR viewing. When season two bows next summer, the producers may respond to this adskip dilemma with an old-school, PVR-beating model.

Originally envisioned as ad-free, a combination of saucy content and

first-season risk proved too scary for most brands – even a product placement deal with Jack Daniels had restrictions (no fighting or sex scenes). However, for the finale they were able to eschew advertising, featuring sole sponsor DirecTV in a tailored opening.

We at strategy enjoy the show’s relentless smoking, drinking and ad-great name-dropping, but frequently wish the female characters would haul off and smack those smug Mad Men with their Jackie O bags. So as the producers head deeper into the ’60s next season, we figured some woman-power-friendly sponsors and product placement deals – and plot lines – were in order.

To that end, we’ve asked a few Ad Women to come up with some ideas to integrate more female-centric plot twists.

Smokin’ sex

Surprisingly for a show called Mad Men there is a considerable amount of screen time dedicated to female story lines. We know all about these ladies – their struggles, their sex lives, their families and their neuroses. But of course, we always like to see more.

Now that Peggy’s been promoted to junior copywriter, I’d like to see her working on Virginia Slims. She’d have to get to know the product, so she’d have to start smoking. (We could have had her smoking during her pregnancy, which would have been historically accurate, but that ship has sailed.) And of course, Peggy will come up with the brilliant tagline: ‘You’ve come a long way, baby.’

For Betty, who has already had some intimate moments with her washing machine, and is aware of Don’s infidelities, I’d like to introduce the Maytag repairman. He is a strapping young man whom she constantly calls to ‘fix’ her appliances. Although he never finds anything wrong with her reliable appliances, he discovers that she is quite broken.

And to further spice up Joan, I’d give her the first Bullet Bra by Playtex. And maybe throw in a Stayfree beltless pad for good measure.

Judy John, SVP/CCO, Leo Burnett Canada

Focus group hell

I’ve always said that if I could travel in time, I would go back to the ’60s and be a force in the Creative Revolution of the advertising industry. This show reminded me, however, that as a female and a visible minority, I’d be on a dirt road somewhere walking 10 miles to get water, while barefoot…and pregnant…and with 50 loads of laundry on my head. Oh, the benefits of being a Caucasian male at that time, and how uncomfortable for these women to work with them at a time when sexual harassment was considered a dirty bedtime game and not a lawsuit.

I like the idea of product placements that would make the men uncomfortable and Tampax is my pick. It would be pretty damn entertaining to see the men endure focus groups and listen to every excruciating detail of flowage, cramps and mood swings. Girl Power! The end result would be to have this product move away from being clinical and toward benefits to personal liberty as we know it today. Honestly, if this had already been part of the show, perhaps it would have clued in our gal Peggy!

Min Ryuck, interactive communications manager, Dentsu Canada

Sur-reality check

Mad Men purports to take place at the cusp of the Creative Revolution, but it also anticipates the Sexual Revolution – which was announced shortly thereafter by Time magazine, I believe. A product placement that would provide an able counter-strike to the hijinks would be pantyhose – an invention that, I’m sure, slowed down sex in the workplace significantly.

I’d also like to have a word with the producers of Mad Men about the accuracy of their portrayal of the ad business in 1960. While I wasn’t there – I’d like to make that eminently clear – a decade or so later I was around many who were. I consulted with a couple of them, and they had a thing or two to say about its veracity or lack thereof.

Here’s Bob Levenson, creator of the original Volkswagen campaign and many other classics that started the Creative Revolution: ‘Veracity? There ain’t none. What we were trying to do was make ads, make a little history and a little money. Some of us practised all kinds of sex, but none of us invented it. It would be pretentious to say that we changed business practices and communications techniques for all time. Except that we did. And they missed it.’

Here’s Ed McCabe, partner and CD, Scali McCabe Sloves, weighing in as only Ed can: ‘I think it stinks. Has nothing to do with the way things were.’

And this I know:

In 1960 the Volkswagen campaign was already in full swing.

In 1960, creative departments were populated by some high-powered, well-paid women (just as they were in the ’40s and ’50s). Women like Mary Wells, Phyllis Robinson and Shirley Polykoff.

In 1960, even the hack ad agencies occasionally produced ads.

I guess you could say the closest these producers got to the advertising business in developing Mad Men were the bait and switch tactics used to promote it.

Joan McArthur, partner & trainer, 27 Marbles/OCAD prof