I was the first reporter to gleam this information from Matt Weiner, creator of the critically acclaimed TV show Mad Men at the 2010 NAB Show in Las Vegas, as part of the 2nd day opening session titled "In Conversation With: Matthew Weiner." Read about what Matt says are the parallels, and differences, with the 1960's Madison Avenue age depicted in the popular show, to 2010's "online video age.”
Yes, I admit it… MAD MEN is a show I've watched on a near-religious basis, since being introduced to it during the beginning of its 2nd season on television (and rented all the back episodes on Netflix since). I've even watched all of the video parodies of the show online. You probably already know about the SNL clips, and the Sesame Street and Simpsons parodies, but I actually find the Mad Women parody to be my fav.
Parallels and differences with the 1960's Madison Avenue age and 2010's online video age – From the Boob Tube to YouTube
What's obvious to fans is that part of the appeal and success of MAD MEN has to do with how well the period piece parallels the present with its theme of rapid change – in media, in America, and the world.
"There's been this technological explosion. And the parallels to the period that I'm writing about are significant." Says Matt. It's true that the 1960's were the age where television became such a mainstream commodity and experience for nearly all of America then, and I see that happening with this decade with online video.
I can also understand how Madison Avenue advertising in the 1960's was really effective when it could bring that emotional "hook" – as the character of Don Draper demonstrated in the first season's ending episode (and arguably the best episode of the series), The Carousel. Take this quote from character Don Draper and you'll see the parallel with today's advertising age:
"There's the rare occasional when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash. When they have a sentimental bond with the product.”
So what's thee difference I see between our decades? Well, the character of Don goes on in the speech to say that while one most effective areas with advertising is showing something new, appealing to nostalgia is ultimately more powerful. I think while that rang mostly true for the 1960's, online video and video ads have shown that people are far more likely today to be swayed by what's new than they were even in the 1960's; and the reverse is also true, in that we are considerably less likely today to be swayed by nostalgia than the people of the 1960's.
My 'Interview' with Mad Men Creator Matt Weiner
Naturally you can expect me to make a beeline for the microphone once the Q&A portion with Matt got underway. Now since I didn't have a videographer with me for this event, I had to work with a pocket digital camcorder, the Kodak Zi8, which I was trying to balance in one hand while keep it inconspicuously low to my body, so as to give the impression that I was just having a natural conversation with the speaker (I find that I get better answers when people, who don't know you from anyone else, aren't aware that you're pointing a camera on them while you're asking them a question. Otherwise, it gives the impression that you're doing investigative-style news on them, which can make them more hesitant with their responses.)
Okay, I do use the world "interview." But truthfully my "interview" consisted of just one question at a microphone for the audience. It's not like he sat down with me and just me. But technically it counts as an interview!
I asked Matt this hypothetical scenario: "Say AMC told you that you had to write a series-ending episode for MAD MEN, and it had to be done featuring Don Draper today in 2010. Would you still write him to be an ad guy? Or would you see him taking a different direction?”
Don Draper would have died in the 80's, blurts show creator
”Don Draper would not live to 2010." Says Matt. "The way that guy smokes and drinks, he's not going to make it. I think [Don Draper] probably died in 1985 or 1986, from the men who had his job. In my mind, I was thinking of growing up with my grandfather during the 80's... and people just stop at a certain point. I don't know, I can't tell you. I mean, I do know, but I can't tell you." (Laughter from the crowd followed.)
Obviously Matt already has idea for the series-ending episode, which he admitted to when pressed by the show moderator, Deputy Editor Cynthia Little of Variety. So... if my calculations are correct... if the 3rd season ended in the year 1963, and Don Draper would be dead in the mid-80's, does that mean fans can expect 23 more seasons, maybe? ;) Or realistically, should fans expect the show era to end the 1960's or 1970's? Here's what Matt has to say about that..
MAD MEN show will end in just 3 more seasons
"I couldn't do more than 6 seasons – it would kill me." says Matt. "That would mean that I'm at the halfway point right now. What you want to do is you want to leave before you wear it out. You want to leave the audience wanting more, which I'm pretty conscientious about. You don't want to get bored, because the audience could smell it. I have a story, and as soon as I know when the end this will be, I will do that story. But whether it's next year or the year after, I know what that story will be.”
Mad Men's user-generated content: video auditions!
Another big difference between the era of half-centry back and today? User-generated content, of course! (Although I do see that being the natural progression with Madison Avenue advertising talking about effective marketing involves engaging your audience; and the technology with online video today being a perfect venue for that.) The show producers were keen to showcasing their fans and getting them more involved via online video. Check out the MADMEN video audition contest, where others could vote and comment on the auditions.
What online video professionals today can learn from the MAD MEN television series…
What themes makes for effective online video today? – APPEALING TO FEELINGS!
- Cutting-edginess (Feeling like you've discovered something new, even revolutionary.)
Now if you'll pardon me, I have to go pound down a few martinis and stare at myself in front of a mirror. ;)
Special thanks to Kaltura for sponsoring my trip to the NAB Show.