Marketers, agencies and media companies scramble to capitalise on the hoopla over the return of Mad Men.
The fifth season of Mad Men, the drama series about advertising and America in the 1960s, is to begin on cable in the US this Sunday and on April 12 on the Movie Extra cable channel in Australia.
It has been 17 months since the final episode of Season 4, and that hiatus — twice as long as usual — has whetted the appetites of fans and those hoping to entice them to buy magazines, books, clothing, cosmetics, jewelry and other merchandise.
"One of my operating strategies for new products is always try to find a way to ride in on something hot," said Steve Eisner, who led Eisner Communications in Baltimore until it closed in 2006 and has published a novel, The MineFields, about the ad business during the last three decades.
"You can ride those coattails until it brings your product some lift," said Eisner, who plans to advertise his book on the Mad Men fan page on Facebook and on blogs. One ad asks, "Want to stay on Mad Ave after Mad Men ends?"
Authors of non-fiction looks at the industry in the Mad Men era are also hoping to gain attention, among them Andrew Cracknell, who wrote The Real Mad Men: The Renegades of Madison Avenue and the Golden Age of Advertising, and Jane Maas, who wrote Mad Women: The Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the '60s and Beyond.
"I think Mad Men is pretty accurate, but I don't remember anyone with an actual bar in his office," said Livingston Miller, president at Seiter & Miller Advertising in New York, which is asking industry executives to reminisce about the last 50 years in interviews that can be watched on a YouTube channel devoted to Advertising's Greatest War Stories.
Perhaps the most ambitious effort is being made by Newsweek and its online partner, The Daily Beast, part of IAC/InterActiveCorp, which will bring out on Monday a double issue of the print and tablet editions of the magazine that are designed to mirror the Newsweek graphics of the '60s.
"I've been spending the last two months going through dusty bound volumes," said Rob Gregory, president at the Newsweek Daily Beast Co., who showed a reporter an ad from a 1965 issue of Newsweek that carried the headline "How do they manage to have a pretty Hertz girl waiting to meet you wherever you land?"
The contents of the Mad Men issue include a cover article by Eleanor Clift — who, echoing the character Peggy Olson, began as a Newsweek secretary and was promoted to so-called men's work — and ads that evoke the period or reproduce vintage pitches.
The sponsors include Allstate, Benetton, Bloomingdale's, British Airways, Domtar paper, Dunkin' Donuts, John Hancock, Geico, Estee Lauder, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, New York Life, Old Forester bourbon, Spam, Triumph motorcycles, Tide, Ultimat vodka and Johnnie Walker scotch.
For instance, the Estee Lauder ad will introduce a Mad Men Collection of makeup in colours and packages inspired by the brand's products of the era.
Online, Newsweek will offer video clips, content on newsweek.tumblr.com and a "retro 1966" makeover for the website dailybeast.com/newsweek, Gregory said, so it looks the way it might have had the internet existed then.
There will be 40 kiosks set up this week in the lobbies of ad agencies to promote the issue, he added.
Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, an agency in Boston that is part of the Interpublic Group, worked with the Newsweek Daily Beast executives to bring the project to fruition.
"We positioned the sales pitch, the idea of creating custom ads, and we even sold a few to our clients," said Karen Kaplan, president at Hill, Holliday, referring to Dunkin' Donuts, whose ad carries the headline "Say 'Yup!' to America's favorite cup," and John Hancock, whose ad, in black and white, carries the headline "Pessimism is a darn lousy investment strategy."
Newsweek is getting "a lot of new advertisers" who were "specifically interested in being in this issue because of the content," Kaplan said.
Of the 30 ad pages, Gregory said, 25 or 26 were created for the issue.
Among other magazines with cover articles or features about the coming season of Mad Men are Entertainment Weekly, Esquire, New York and Rolling Stone.
Online, Reminisce magazine has created a slide show called "1960s Pop Culture in Ads," which includes Cadillac, Wolfschmidt's vodka, IBM electric typewriters and Viceroy cigarettes ("a thinking man's filter ... a smoking man's taste").
There have been, of course, numerous attempts to take advantage of the buzz surrounding Mad Men since its debut in 2007. There is official merchandise like T-shirts, DVDs, books, soundtracks and calendars.
The Banana Republic apparel chain, has marketed clothing for men and women inspired by Mad Men; another collection, for spring 2012, is in stores.
And in 2010, Mattel sold versions of its Barbie and Ken dolls styled after four characters: Don, Betty, Roger and Joan.The series "resonates with our audience," said Bradford Shellhammer, chief creative officer at Fab.com, a social commerce website with flash sales on merchandise for "people who love modern design".
"A lot of the furniture we sell can be popped into the Mad Men set," he added.
Fab.com plans to greet the Season 5 premiere with a series of sales on items like period apparel and barware along with new rings, cuff links, tie bars and other jewelry.
The New York Times