There was an interesting product placement in Mad Men’s season 6 finale. It involved Hershey’s, the largest chocolate manufacturer in North America.

Hershey’s is one of the oldest chocolate companies in the United States, and an American icon for its chocolate bar.

Hershey’s had a very interesting and important role in the season finale. Its product placement consisted of spoken words (the brand was mentioned several times) and visual elements (Hershey’s logo was clearly visible in Don’s presentation).

*** ALERT: MASSIVE SPOILERS ***

Hershey’s was mentioned in a conversation between Ken and Don, when Ken asked Don to name a chocolate. Don replied: »What, like Hershey’s?«

During the conversation Don even said »I love Hershey’s.« That was a bit awkward, since that kind of statement is rarely seen in movies and TV shows.

Don Draper loves Hershey’s (2013, AMC, screen capture)
Don Draper loves Hershey’s (2013, AMC, screen capture)

But Hershey’s moment came in one of the main scenes from the episode, if not from the whole season: Don’s presentation in front of Hershey’s people. That scene was in some ways similar to season 1 finale where Don did his famous Kodak pitch that was thoroughly analyzed in the blog post The best product placement in the TV shows.

Hershey’s in Mad Men S06E13 (2013, AMC, screen capture)

Don began his pitch with the statement that Hershey’s played and very important part in the lives of the American people and told his story.

Here’s Don’s pitch:

“Every agency you’re going to meet with feels qualified to advertise the Hershey bar because the product itself is one of the most successful billboards of all time.

And its relationship with America is so overwhelmingly positive that everyone in this room has their own story to tell. It could be rations in the heat of battle or in the movie theater on a first date. But most of them are from childhood.

Mine was my father taking me to the drugstore after I’d mowed the lawn and telling me I could have anything I wanted. Anything at all. And there was a lot. But I picked a Hershey bar. The wrapper looked like what was inside. And as I ripped it open, my father tousled my hair and forever his love and the chocolate were tied together. That’s the story we’re going to tell.

Hershey’s is the currency of affection. It’s the childhood symbol of love.”

Hershey’s in Mad Men S06E13 (2013, AMC, screen capture)

However, after a short conversation among Sterling Cooper & Partners guys and Hershey’s representatives, Don changed his mind and told another story, but this one wasn’t cheesy, it was real and heartbreaking.

“I’m sorry, I have to say this ’cause I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again.

I was an orphan. I grew up in Pennsylvania… in a whorehouse. I read about Milton Hershey and his school in “Coronet” magazine or some other crap the girls left by the toilet.

And I read that some orphans had a different life there. I could picture it. I dreamt of it– of being wanted. Because the woman who was forced to raise me would look at me every day like she hoped I would disappear.

Closest I got to feeling wanted was from a girl who made me go through her john’s pockets while they screwed. If I collected more than a dollar, she’d buy me a Hershey bar. And I would eat it alone in my room with great ceremony… feeling like a normal kid.

It said “Sweet” on the package. It was the only sweet thing in my life.”

Hershey’s in Mad Men S06E13 (2013, AMC, screen capture)

So, Don apparently destroyed the possibility of working with Hershey’s, but at the same time revealed to his partners a lot about his background. Information that was his secret and something he told only a few selected people in his life.

The verdict

What can we say about the product placement?

Penn Live reports that Hershey Co. spokesman Jeff Beckman said that “Hershey’s appearance in the show last night was 100 percent organic. Hershey’s is thrilled to be included in this very popular television show. It truly shows the iconic stature of our founder, our company and our brand and the impact Hershey’s milk chocolate has on American history pop culture.”

Stuart Elliott of New York Times reports that the inclusion of Hershey in the episode was not an arranged product placement or an example of an advertiser paying for a branded entertainment project.

Ok, so the brand’s logo was visible, brand was mentioned several times and it had an important role in a crucial scene. That’s all great, right?

Yes, it is. I was thinking for a few days whether mentioning the brand in the context of a whorehouse and being in the hands of an orphan would be problematic for the brand, but just couldn’t find a legitimate reason. I have to admit that I totally liked Hershey’s integration in the story when I first watched the season finale, then I thought that this placement wasn’t good at all, but my final verdict is: it’s a great placement.

In a perfect world Hershey’s is the currency of affection. It’s the childhood symbol of love. But in an imperfect (real?) world Hershey’s might just be the only sweet thing in someone’s life.


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