“Advertising is based on one thing, happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is okay. You are okay.”
(title quote: Don Draper, Mad Men.)
Tonight is the season premiere of Mad Men! Television event of the year! Ok, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the entertainment world couldn’t be more excited. Newsweek not only gives the show its cover story but revamps the design and features stories and ads that ran in the 1960s. You can read about the editorial and creative decisions here. And it seems show creator Matthew Weiner has been very secretive about season 5’s place in time- as in how many years how passed since season 4 closed in 1965. It has been a year and half for the audience; perhaps the show will follow this timeline as well?
Since 2007 when the show premiered, Mad Men has been a huge success. The show has great writing: the stories and the characters are what keep you coming back, but it also engrosses you in the time period. From the beautiful costumes* and sets, to the tone of the character’s voices, to casual sexism and racism, Mad Men captures a way of American life that dazzles some and gives pangs of nostalgia to others. The show wraps itself up the world of advertising. Like so many things in the 1960s, advertising was changing. We see the motivation behind the ads and the manipulation and artistry that goes into them. We see deals and careers made and lost.
We see office politics at play and we see how work and home life affect one another. While Don Draper may be the lead character in the show, his story does not overshadow that of the other characters. In my opinion, what makes the show so powerful is that each of the major characters is three-dimensional and played by the actors with such nuance and conviction that you become emotionally invested. (I felt this way about the series Six Feet Under as well, but that can be another post).
In case you are unfamiliar with Mad Men you can get acquainted with the show’s “premise” and have fun doing it with Mad Men: The Game. If you are an advertising major, check out the collection, including print copies of Adweek and Advertising Age, and our online journals.
Fun Fact: Mad Men has a Pittsburgh connection! Aaron Stanton, who plays Ken Cosgrove, attended CMU’s drama school.