Last week was one of the scariest weeks for die-hard Mad Men fans. According to some news reports there was a battle between AMC, the cable channel that showcases Mad Men, and Matthew Weiner, creator, executive producer and the chief writer of Mad Men. The dispute was about cost cutting. Apparently AMC would air the 5th season under certain conditions:

  • Additional two minutes of commercial time to each episode, so that means each episode should be 45 minutes long (instead of 47).
  • They would drop at least two regular cast members.
  • More product placement in each episode.

After those conditions were published in media the majority of fans expressed their rage on different forums, websites, Facebook and Twitter. However, a couple of days later Matthew Weiner and AMC announced that they had signed an agreement for the 5th and 6th season of Mad Men. Hooray!

Bottle of Stolichnaya vodka in Mad Men (2009, AMC, screen capture)

So, was it just much ado about nothing? In my opinion … yes. But let’s concentrate on the third AMC’s condition: more product placement. Here are 5 reasons why more product placement on Mad Men won’t be a problem for viewers and the angriest fans.

  1. Matthew Weiner is an intelligent (some say genius) person and writer with a great sense for details. Basically everything on Mad Men is spot on, ranging from costumes and set design from the 60s, cars, specific and important events (Muhammad Ali fight, JFK’s assassination …) to popular music (remember The Beatles’ concert), books and paintings. Also, episodes in terms of screenplay are not shallow, but rich in context that would sometimes require second viewing.
  2. The show is set in 60s, so that fact alone eliminate a chance of product placement for a lot of brands that are heavy users of product placement, e.g. Apple, PlentyOfFish dating website, Sony Vaio laptops, Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, Carrera sunglasses … If the brand decides that product placement in Mad Men is good for it, then they must do it the right way. “For a brand like Coca-Cola, product placement in something like Mad Men would be a perfect fit, and only help strengthen its innate brand equities in the minds of consumers,” said Yvette Quiazon, marketing consultant for Apple, Nike, and Coca-Cola at wHY-Q,

    the NY-based brand-strategy boutique for an article published in NYMAG.

  3. Mad Men is about advertising and ad men. There is absolutely nothing wrong if there are brands included in the script. I mean, it would be wrong if they would work only with fake brands and not with the real ones. Brands are important for the show and must be involved in the story.
  4. There wasn’t a lot of (paid) product placement in Mad Men so far. If Don Draper & co. mention or show brands and logos, it doesn’t necessary means that this is paid product placement. It’s difficult to get the facts about product placement deals for Mad Men, but some of brands involved supposedly paid for that. These are Heineken, Cadillac, Utz, US Airways, London Fog, Smirnoff, Hilton and Canadian Club.
  5. So far product placement was integrated brilliantly. Some placements in Mad Men were so good that either became one of the most recognizable elements of the entire season (Kodak speech from the last episode of season 1) or on the other hand influenced the company to choose one of cast members to be an official face of the brand (Christina Hendricks/Joan for London Fog). Those two cases were in my opinion so good that I had put them on the Top 40 list of best placements ever: Kodak Carousel speech is in the second place and London Fog in 23rd place respectively.
Bottle of Canadian Club whisky in Mad Men (2010, AMC, screen capture)

IMO Mad Men is the best TV series at the moment, which already involves product placement. So fans shouldn’t really worry about more product placement in the show. But anyway … those five elements mentioned above will guarantee that even if Weiner has to increase the number of placements, he would do it in such a way and so good, that you wouldn’t be disappointed.

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  2. Just a quick list of product placement I’ve spotted in the show:

    Lucky Strikes – Cigarettes
    Hilton Hotels – Conrad Hilton
    American Airlines
    Bandanna Republic – Clothing
    Volkswagen – Lemon Advertisement
    Playboy Club
    Gillette – Shaving Cream
    Life – Cereal
    Jack Daniels
    Mountain Dew
    Coca Cola
    Canadian Club
    Stolichnaya – Vodka
    Readers Digest
    New York Times
    AT Cross – Pens
    Heinz – Baked Beans
    Jantzen – Swimsuits
    Pond’s Cold Cream
    RE (Randolph Engineering) – Aviators
    Clearasil – Peter Campbell’s Step Dad CEO Vick’s Chemicals
    Schaefer – Beer
    Samsonite – Bag
    Playtex – Lingerie
    London Fog – Winter Jackets
    Honda – Motorbike ad for Japanese
    Cadillac – 1962 Coupe de Ville driven by Don Draper
    Utz – Chips
    Kodak – Carousel
    John Deere – Tractor
    Campbell Soup
    General Electric

    Not sure which ones are paid and which aren’t. US law doesn’t specify any requirement for product placement to be disclosed at all, let alone registered with a centralized entity.

  3. The thing about these product placements that sets them apart is how they are integrated into the storytelling. Most product placements are a simple shot of someone grabbing a beer or soda with the label facing toward the audience. Because Mad Men is all about…well…ads, they’ve made the traditional product placement a fine art. Enjoyable to watch.