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Mad Men: Back (Finally) – And Back to the Future

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fallingMad Men Season 5 is upon us and we’re ready to head back to the ’60s—the Golden Age of advertising, decades before the internet, digital communications and social media. Mad Men is quintessential 1960s Madison Avenue, yet the show has been enthusiastically adopted and adapted by today’s digitally enabled viewers as well as modern Mad Men (and Women). While the narrative of Mad Men is firmly entrenched in the ‘60s, the show enjoys a thriving present life in both the real and virtual worlds of its fans. These connections flow from an enduring interest in the ad world, a fascination with the ’60s and, perhaps most of all, the deep, character driven, storytelling prowess of the show. And now, Google has enabled a way for us to experience the iconic advertising of the Mad Men era interpreted through digital eyes—a tribute to the creativity of the real Mad Men who lived it.

Follow Me @

As expected, the show set up its own @MadMen Twitter account and it has a nice following. But something unusual happened as Mad Men took hold. Independent of the show’s marketing campaign, Mad peggyMen characters started popping up on Twitter with their “personal” accounts. We got to meet @dondraper, @peggyolson and the rest of the cast in real time. These “unauthorized” Mad Men Twitter personalities were created, painstakingly brought to life and cared for every day by dedicated fans and followers. Fictional characters from the ‘60s actually live a fan generated parallel life in the present day. Their digital personas became intertwined and interconnected with their lives on the show and a Mad Men character driven Twitter sub-culture evolved.

Interestingly, when these “unauthorized” Twitter accounts popped up, the network acted like they were stuck in the ‘60s and moved quickly to shut them down. But reaction from viewers to bring them back was so strong that the decision was reversed and they live today in our digital lives. Don Draper’s sobering welcome to the power of social media.

Beyond these personas on Twitter there are fan generated Facebook Fan pages, stunning Pinterest boards, countless blogs, You Tube Videos, etc. The scope and creativity of this fan adoption and adaptation is amazing.

Seasond

Mad Men infographics visualize a range of facts and information from a chronicle of events across each season to a Wired magazine “who slept with who” bed hopping show all. There are “What Would Don Draper Do” articles about everything from problem solving to Occupy to advertising the Olympics. An article in The Huffington Post covered the growing popularity of a new meme that one-ups #Tebowing…#Draping. These are fan created visualizations that mimic the iconic Don Draper silhouettes from the show’s advertising. A recent Wall Street Journal article chronicled a wide array of planned virtual and real world events to mark the return of the show. There’s even a special “Mad Men In The City” package being offered by The Roosevelt Hotel where Don Draper stayed after his wife Betty threw him out. Mad Men has found its place in our present day virtual and real world culture.

Are we ready for season 5? You bet we are!

Google Meets & Morphs the Ads of Mad Men

All of this is exciting, entertaining and fun. But as an ad guy and a Mad Man, one of the most interesting and unique events that captured my attention isn’t about the show. It’s a very special project that celebrates the advertising campaigns that were created in the Mad Men era. Google’s Project Rebrief: “A grand experiment whereby Google partnered with five of the brightest “old-school” legends from advertising to re-imagine their most iconic creative work from a half-century ago for the modern web.”

Project Rebrief

Thanks to this marvelous undertaking by Google, we get to see famous campaigns for Coke, Volvo, Avis and Alka Seltzer re-imagined and executed for the digital age. What makes this especially wonderful is that Google pairs up the original Mad Men that created the ads with Google’s young, bright, energetic creative staff. We watch them work, interact and ideate. Magic happens.

What Would Don Draper Think

This is indeed an exciting time to be bringing great advertising ideas to life. Technology enables better, more personal ways to tell stories and connect with people 24/7 wherever they are. The Project Rebrief melding of traditional and digital ideation and media creates a very special story and a captivating journey that even Don Draper would have loved. Sure, Don would have been a bit skeptical at first, just like some of the real life Mad Men and Women in this series. But in the end, Don would have enjoyed more than a few cocktails to celebrate the end results and seize the opportunity to lay down some Draper dogma at SCDP:

1. Big emotional ideas are at the heart of all great advertising
2. Passionate invested people create & bring great ideas to life
3. Big ideas stand the test of time and travel well across all media
4. It still all comes down to the art of great storytelling

No matter how much things change, some things stay the same.

Thanks Google, Amil Gargano, Howie Cohen, Bob Pasqualina, Paula Green and Harvey Gabor for making this digital Mad Men adventure possible. Shining Lights…still.

Season 5. The story continues.

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About Hank Wasiak

Hank Wasiak is a communications industry leader and partner at the creative hot shop, The Concept Farm. Hank began his advertising career in 1965 as a real Mad Man at Benton & Bowles. He is a best selling author, teacher, motivational speaker and three time Emmy award winning television host. Hank and Dr. Kathy Cramer created a best selling business - self help book series based on Asset-Based Thinking published by Running Press. Hank also is an Adjunct Professor at USC's Marshall School Of Business.
  • Igor

    I watched Mad Men with great interest the first season, but then lost interest. I actually lived through the 50’s and 60’s in major US corporations and suffered the same for the TV show as I did for the original. US corps then were full of such bright figures as Don and Roger and such primped-up doll-secretaries as Joan, etc. It was all very entrancing, but soon enough became tiresome, just like the TV show.

    I don’t know if they’ve shown it yet on TV, but there were a lot of suicides and horrible divorces at that time. I was lucky to always have many outside interests so the job never became the center of my life, but I had a dilettantes interests in the fortunes of others.

  • Hank Wasiak (@hankwasiak)

    Hi Igor. Thanks for reading the article and your comments. Yes, many bright and sometimes “dilettantish” people on both the agency and corporate sides….lots of intense long hours. Fortunately there was nothing as extreme as you mentioned but there was definitely a work hard play even harder mentality that resulted in some very intense business and personal lives. Hope you watch the show again this season. Look forward to hearing from you.

    Thanks again.

    Hank Wasiak