The Death of Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man

In the latter part of the fourth season of AMC’s Mad Men, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce experiences the loss of their most important and loyal client, Lucky Strike cigarettes. Losing this massive account caused the firm to scramble looking for ways to drum up enough business to stay afloat, so Don Draper boldly took out a full-page ad in The New York Times declaring that SCDP would no longer accept tobacco accounts and that the company would no longer create advertisements for potentially harmful products. Although this unanticipated and risky move by Draper was frowned upon unanimously by his associates, it seems, in retrospect, that getting out of the tobacco game was a very well-timed gambit on his part.

In the 1950’s and early 1960’s, tobacco companies were frequent sponsors of television programs and sporting events whose advertisements were ubiquitous in daily American life. Slogans like “I’d walk a mile for a Camel”, “Us Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch!” (itself created by oft-referenced SCDP rival firm BBDO), and “Winstons taste good like a cigarette should” captivated a nation where smoking was commonplace and widely accepted. However, as scientific evidence revealed that smoking caused cancer and numerous other health problems, lawmakers received increased pressure to lessen the presence of tobacco in media. This pressure culminated in the passage of the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act of 1970 by the US Congress, which banned all television and radio advertisements for cigarettes, relegating them to existing only in such media as magazines, newspapers, and billboards. Since then, even more strict restrictions have been placed on cigarette advertisements. Under the recent Family Smoking and Tobacco Control Act, tobacco companies are banned from sponsoring sports or music events or place their logos on articles of clothing. Eventually, this law is going to require that tobacco advertisements consist of only black text on a white background except for in certain “Adult-oriented” publications. It’s hard to imagine even Don Draper being able to do something with that.

Sources: "Tobacco Advertising" and "New FDA Rules Take the Fun Out of Cigarette Advertising"


Sterling Cooper Shrugs

Atlas Shrugged is a novel written by Ayn Rand, first published in 1957. The novel takes place in the future United States, where the population refuses to be exploited by the government. The protagonist of the book is a woman named Dagny Taggart. She sees the government trying to take more and more control over its people, which leads to the society collapsing. Meanwhile, a productive member of society by the name of John Galt is leading a “strike” against the government because it tries to take away from individual people’s accomplishments. The book, in over a thousand pages, tries to demonstrate that society cannot exist if its people are slaves to the government and if there is a lack of profit motive in people’s minds.

This novel is very pro-Capitalism. A major theme in the book is the idea of objectivism. Objectivism is the idea of "rational self-interest," which means looking out for you above everyone else. “Rational self-interest” is an idea that stemmed from Capitalism. Capitalism is an economic system where things are produced privately and meant for private profit. People who believe in Capitalism believe that it is the best economic system because it allows for an individual to work hard and earn their profit on their own, without any help from the government. In Capitalism, profit motive is what triggers people to work hard. Capitalists believe that the government should keep out of economic affairs.

Bert Cooper, one of the heads of Sterling Cooper, is a big fan of Atlas Shrugged and suggests to a number of his employees to buy a copy. In the wake of the Cold War, this was a very popular book because it promoted Capitalism, which is what the United States believes is the best economic system. The book suggests that the government as shown in the book, a government that control its people, is a form of Communism. Communism versus Capitalism was the main idea of the Cold War and whoever ‘won’ the War would have the best type of government.

Links referenced: “Atlas Shrugged.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 15 Oct 2010. Web. 17 Oct


Don Schupack

The process of creating advertising campaigns is transformed from pencil pushing to an art form in the television series Mad Men. To me, the recurring “light bulb” idea moments stood out as the more memorable of the first season. There are many scenes that fall under these criteria but Don’s idea pitch scene in “The Wheel” and the ad campaign created for Menken’s stand out more than the others. Acting as a looking glass into a previously unexplained world, these scenes also led me to ponder how modern ad agencies conduct their ad campaigns. I’ve decided to explore modern advertising techniques by examining the campaign for a product anyone reading this is sure to have consumed: Mad Men.

The ad campaign for Mad Men is incredibly iconic with its enticing and bold use of colors and art styles as well as its strategic and captivating use of music and other media. The first season of Mad Men employed the techniques of the always interesting, and downward spiraling, Amy Winehouse with the use of her song “You Know I’m No Good” for the show’s commercial spots. This move was incredibly intelligent of the advertisers marketing Mad Men to the public. Amy Winehouse’s music is a combination of modern pop and 60’s jazz, a clear reference to the show’s combination of modern and retro: issues of the 60’s mixed with racy modern plot-lines.

One similarity between the Menken’s ad campaign and Mad Men’s is the use of new age technique and thought in the marketing of a product. Much like Sterling Cooper’s addition of modern European fashion and innovative displays and customer service at Menken’s, the advertisers behind Mad Men build buzz for the series through promotion via blogs, Twitter and Facebook. The advertisers have even created a mini game online called "Mad Men Yourself" where fans can create their own Mad Men-ified copies of themselves. Mad Men is also in a joint campaign with Banana Republic with “Mad Men characters and images alongside Banana Republic looks” to promote the show and act as a “testament to the broad influence the series has had on the world of fashion design” ("AMC and Banana Republic Extend 'Mad Men' Marketing Promotion for a Second Year").

Linda Schupack, the mastermind behind the marketing of Mad Men, created the ad campaign in this way to not just earn viewership but “to entertain people." Don Draper is incredibly privy to this concept as scene in his monologue in “The Wheel” and various other rants in the series on the general public. The public, according to Don, wants to be entertained by their advertising not told what to do by it. How appropriate that advertising for Mad Men emulates the virtues of Don Draper?

(The articles cited in this post (check them out) also have plenty of other Mad Men advertising shenanigans performed by Schupack and her team, including shrink wrapping a train in Grand Central Station and handing out Sterling Cooper business cards.)

Links referenced:


Pay No Attention To That Man Behind the Curtain

The amount of attention focused on all things Mad Men is extraordinary. All of a sudden these “nobody” actors appeared on a little watched network to be the stars of a period drama that was vastly different from the popular shows on television, and we just can not get enough. Their faces cover magazines; they receive awards and nominations; and they inspired a recurrence of 1960s fashion. But with all this hype about Mad Men, I can not help but wonder about the man behind it all.

As I was skimming through the September issue of Rolling Stone plastered with the faces of some of the Mad Men characters I have come to know, I was surprised to find that the article within was actually focused on the creator of the show Matthew Weiner rather than the famous stars we tune into each week. Interestingly though, the separate characters we see on screen comprise the full person of Matthew Weiner: “In his head, the characters on the show are all reflections of himself. Not just Don Draper - every single part” (Konigsberg 46). Mad Men serves as a form of therapy that enables him to release everything he feels as well as talk about his family, parents, fantasies, enemies, and fears (Konigsberg 46).

So who is Matthew Weiner? Well, he wishes he had the sexual confidence of Joan, refers to himself as a mini-Pete Campbell during his high school years, and painfully admits that he was once a jealous and cruel person (Konigsberg 46). Also, he is no Don Draper, at least personality-wise. Where Don would handle any situation with ease, Weiner finds himself uncomfortable in such situations, evidenced by his obvious fidgeting (Konigsberg 43). However, both Draper and Weiner are constantly dealing with the question of who they are, a question that all of us have asked a some point or another. In a sense, Matthew Weiner is Mad Men.

So, while you get to know Don, Peggy, Joan, Pete, Betty, and the other characters, realize too that you are ultimately getting to know Matthew Weiner. It turns out that we are paying more attention to the man behind the curtain than we thought.

Links referenced: Konigsberg, Eric. “A Fine Madness.” Rolling Stone 16 Sept. 2010: 43-49. Print.


AMC's Mad Men is based around many different issues; relationships, historical events and tensions in the 1960s, and mystery about characters among others. However, regardless of what is going on in the always intriguing and scandalous lives of its employees, Sterling Cooper is an ad agency. In many scenes we see Don, Peggy, and other characters working on copy and giving presentations on advertising strategies for various clients. What always strikes me while watching the show is the fact that many of the ads look like they could be in a magazine or on a billboard today. The elegance and modern aesthetics of ads on the show like those made for Bethlehem Steel and Liberty Capitol "Executive Account" often make me wonder how accurate these ads really are to the 1960 setting of a show made today when I think of the cartoonish ads of the 60s with paragraphs and paragraphs of fine print.

However, Lucky Strike, a real life cigarette company and fictional client of Sterling Cooper, is an example of when the creators of Mad Men get it right. The show depicts quite a few real-life situations that come up in Sterling Cooper and Don's ideas for Lucky Strike's advertising, obviously twisted to make them fit the show. For example, in the first episode and subsequently there is controversy on the show surrounding the FDA and claims it allows cigarette companies to make about the health of their cigarettes. In reality, Lucky Strike did put out ads depicting doctors which claimed that their cigarettes were healthier than others. This practice is obviously no longer allowed. Another real-life example from Lucky Strike's advertising is the slogan "It's toasted." On Mad Men, Don comes up with this brilliant idea on the spur of the moment in a meeting. In reality, this slogan had been in place at Lucky Strike since 1917; however, the slogan still remains the same. 

While the same accuracy and attention to detail cannot be this exact for all of the advertisements on the show, it is clear that the writers of Mad Men are paying attention to what really happened in the 1960s. The other clients on the show, such as Ponds, Bethlehem Steel, and Kodak are real companies, giving the writers of the show examples and measures for accuracy of advertising in the 1960s. Although not every ad can have such extensive history behind it, many things on the show are based on real events and people and ring true for the 1960s.

Image credits: From The New York Times Website
Links referenced: "Lucky Strike"


From the first episode of Mad Men to the current fourth season, Lucky Strike cigarettes have been the primary account for Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (formerly Sterling Cooper). However, the agency and their old friend finally parted ways this past week as part of a series of losses that has led SCDP on the verge of collapse. In a daring attempt to spin this troublesome news, Don Draper decides to write an open letter to the public saying that the agency will no longing take on cigarettes accounts due to their danger to people’s health. Of course, this is Don’s attempt to spin bad news and not a sudden emergence of ethical standards.

Ironically, the real life Lucky Strike brand underwent its own endeavors with the delicate art of spin. During the 1940s, Lucky Strike claimed in their ad campaigns to have “gone to war” alongside Americans. Their signature green packaging was replaced with white, and sales increased by 40 percent. Part of this was the result of a claim by the parent company, American Tobacco, that they had changed the pack because they wanted to save the copper used in the green paint that went onto the packages for the war effort. However, this patriotic act was not altogether true. While the gold trim of the packaging was indeed made with copper-based paint, the substantially larger green portion was made from chromium. The real reason behind the change in colors was studies (perhaps conducted by men not so different from Don and Pete Campbell) that showed that women, a growing demographic of the smoking population, disapproved of the drab, green color.

Pretty sneaky, no? Then again, these are the people who have successfully peddled what have been known colloquially for over a half century as “caner sticks”.

Links referenced: "Lucky Strike." Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 5 Oct 2010. Web. 11 Oct 2010.


Every once in a while, a few media outlets will get together and seize the actor of the moment, proceeding to hinge their hopes of success on this singular person. Luckily for us, that man appears to be Jon Hamm: the man behind the grey flannel suit of Don Draper.

The Town, released on September 17th, coincided perfectly with the hype from the mid-season shenanigans at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Surprisingly, though, Mr. Hamm’s character from The Town shares a few character traits with his small-screen counterpart.

The Town is set in Charlestown, a neighborhood in Boston notorious for bank robberies, and Hamm portrays an FBI agent attempting to catch the “bad guys." About midway through the movie, the astute Mad Men viewer will begin to notice some strange parallels between Agent Frawley and Mr. Draper. Their prickly boardroom demeanor, emotionless pragmatism in regards to their businesses, and (excuse the pun) take no prisoners attitude in regards to their adversaries, the two Hamm dopplegangers are surprisingly similar. 

The only logical conclusion is that Don Draper conducts business like a cop on the edge. That can really only make us like him all the more. 

The movie itself was quite impressive, a generally good crime film. Any fan of Mad Men should see the movie, as director Ben Affleck weaves a gritty, realistic piece, reminiscent of the grit and realism of the recent episodes in the Fourth Season of Mad Men. The ins and outs of Ben Affleck’s second outing as a director aside, the movie itself  becomes quite comical when you say to yourself, “Oh, damn, there goes Don Draper, but with a shotgun”.