Adland on Mad Men Episode #1 (Pilot)

Mad men. The show on AMC by Matthew Weiner focuses on advertising in 1960, right as the creative revolution is about to send shockwaves through the industry, while smoking was still on the tail-end of cool and sexual banter wasn't harassment yet. In short, it's like advertising today only with better hats. The shows tagline is where the truth lies. Ding! Double entandre! Dollar in the tipjar please!

Title sequences are like X-ray specs on the next thirty minutes. We know it's going to be a good show where a man falls between skyscrapers of advertising posters (visual puns!) only to end up this cool. Yes baby, lets go.

First, lets establish some adtrusims. Ad truism #1: Everyone in advertising always works on their ideas late at night in smoky bars by scribbling junk down on napkins. A really great idea will be shining through the beer stains and drunken handwriting no matter how hungover you are the next day, provided you can still read it. A really good idea needs not to be all worked up, it'll wow people even if it's scribbled on napkins. Basically this means a lot of people in advertising are great bullshitters who like to hang at bars late at night talking to "everyman" doing "research". Don Draper has run dry on ideas.

Ad truism #2:
The next morning new girl Peggy adjusts to life as a secretary at an ad agency. Learn who really runs the show - yes, it's the switch board girls.

The three receptionists spin the threads of fate at the foot of switch board, the tree of the world, one of them even manages a "talk to the hand" greeting.

Peggy has been wise enough to bring gifts though, so they check her out and might even allow her to last ten minutes. The three norns are pleased, soon they return to weaving the strings of life and promise no knots in Peggy's. For now.

Joan, the redhead with the curves, continues to show Peggy around and eventually her main machine - the IBM."Now try not to be overwhelmed by all this technology. It looks complicated but the men who designed it made it simple enough for a woman to use."

That sounds like an old Del Monte ad!

And wait a second here people, hold your horses, am I seeing the first historical mistake here? That typewriter does not look like the IBM Model C she should be using in the year 1960, it looks like the IBM Selectric from 1961. Fair enough, ad people always get the good toys first - and I just revealed what a major IBM geek lives inside me please don't throw punch cards at me. I'll blame the brainwash, as I'm an IBM baby. There are two companies in this world who have their own song book, Procter&Gamble, and IBM. Deduce from that what you will.

word of the week:
"strumpet" and then he tops it off with "move your fanny toward me I'm not gonna bite." Please say it again with me, strumpet!

Draper isn't doing to well on the Lucky Strike account, and gets research telling him that people who smoke have a death wish.
"We can put a skull and crossbones on the label," Salvatore quips but the AD's accidental genius is ignored.
Is this a reference to death cigarettes? You remember them don't you - the early nineties brand created by BJ 'cunning' Cunningham which carried not only a skull and crossbones on the packs outside but also a roach printed on that wee extra flap on the inside? That flap which people rip out and use for.. You guessed it, roaches. Had Mary J been legalized BJ Cunningham would have owned that market in no time at all. Clever bugger.

Ad truism #3:
At the meeting with Lucky finally Dan has an epiphany and shows us all what advertising is all about. Say it first, and you'll own it. All tobacco is toasted but Lucky said it first. Don't you just love that blackboards were chalk-boards back then?

Dealing with clients hasn't changed much I see. They cough....

You cough! They wanna go to the banana stripper bar you go to the banana stripper bar. See? Easy!

Speaking of stripper bars, Playboy clearly didn't sponsor the show. I also name these kitten ears best headgear of the week.

It's at the Kitten club that Salvatore possible outs himself as being not only the token Italian guy, but possible also the stereotypical gay male art director....

"I love this place, it's hot loud...and filled with men!"
"I know what you mean." Salvator purrs. Oh Salvator, I adore you, can I be your AD-assistant/fag-hag?

Astray shot of the week: Rachel Menken ups the ante way high when she stubs out her glamorous cigarette-holder fag into the obligatory shrimp cocktail. You go girl!

Later Rachel is spotted in front of the wallpaper of the week. Don't be distracted by her seductive smile, we want that Zebra-striped stuff going on behind her! It is to die for and Salvator would agree.

Meanwhile, this is how you seduce women in 1960. Don't look into their eyes or whisper sweet nothings in their ears, just hypnotize them with the vibrations of your adam's apple against their third eye. Or something.

I mean, what the heck just happened there? She let him in? Peggy, Peggy, Peggy.. You are that kind of girl now and didn't the Doctor (strumpet!) just tell you not to try and get your eleven dollars a month worth? I'm sure he wasn't worth the effort.

Is this a reference to Red Door? The London ad agency around 2k? Was that even their name, maybe they were "Blue door"? I think this is a sign that I need to sleep kids, I'm reading way too much into symbols that aren't even there. Argh!

Can't wait until the next episode. And neither can you. Strumpet. Strump-et!

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taO's picture

Thanks to the tobacco industri for making the whole serie possible :) - its been a while since I have seen so much smoke without a explosion in a movie.
They where sure killing them self back in the good old days!

Andreas-Udd's picture

Why Dabitch, you're slacking! You must know that the line "It's Toasted" has been the Lucky Strike slogan since 1917?

Dabitch's picture

You're so right. My bad!