April 5 marks the beginning of the end of the eight-year romance fans have had with the scripted hit that broke AMC out of the box: Mad Men, Matthew Weiner’s love letter to 1960s Madison Avenue.
In Mad Men’s first season finale, “The Wheel,” which secured the series’ critical adoration, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) unfurled perhaps his iconic pitch for Kodak’s Carousel slide projector:
“Nostalgia - it’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device is a time machine. It goes backwards, forwards. Takes us to a place where we ache to go again.”
Draper might have been talking about both television and the series itself. These words mirror the operating principles for a marketing campaign that toasts creator Weiner’s single-minded recreation of New York in the 1960s.
Linda Schupack, AMC Networks executive VP of marketing, describes the campaign as a celebration of “what Mad Men has represented over the years. It’s not just that we’re driving tune-in for the season. A lot of our messaging is reflective of the experience that people have had, and the passion they’ve felt for the series over the previous seven seasons. It’s really eight years of an experience that we’re tapping into and celebrating.”
Just as it did with the end of another of its signature series, Breaking Bad, AMC split Mad Men’s final season into two halves. This decision necessitated a two-year marketing campaign.
Despite having two campaigns, the network always thought of seasons 7A and 7B holistically: “In our heads, we thought about the first half as the beginning of the end and the last seven episodes, truly, as an end of an era,” says Schupack.
This elongated time frame proved necessary to schedule events in New York and enabled AMC to give Mad Men the farewell they felt it deserved. As Schupack says, “the final season is truly an event that’s not going to be able to be repeated.”
From March through June, AMC has teamed with the city of New York to orchestrate a flurry of exhibits, panels and themed food and drinks, many featuring Weiner himself.
From March 14 to June 14, the Museum of the Moving Image will exhibit “Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men,” featuring costumes, sets and props. MOMI also is screening “Required Viewing: Mad Men’s Movie Influences,” a 10-film series from March 14 to April 14.
On March 21, The Film Society of Lincoln Center hosted “Mad Men: The End of An Era,” an evening with Weiner and the cast. Over the same weekend, Weiner curated “The Essential Mad Men,” a free marathon of must-see episodes.
Similarly, the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s repertory film program BAMcinématek is hosting a two-day film festival April 22-23, featuring discussions with Weiner or a cast member.
A list of 25 books read by main characters over the course of the show make up the “Mad Men Reading List” at the New York Public Library.
On March 29, Weiner examines the evolution of Jewish identity on Mad Men at the Museum of Jewish Heritage.
For those longing for a true Old Fashioned, AMC has partnered with NYC & Company to create Mad Men Dining Week. From March 23 through March 29, 34 participating restaurants (including historic spots like Le Cirque and P.J. Clarke’s) will feature 1960’s style prix-fixe two-course lunches, or Don’s preferred liquid lunch, each for the era-appropriate price of $19.69.
The events aren’t exclusive to New York: the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., welcomes props and costumes from the show to its permanent collection on March 27th. Weiner, Jon Hamm and Kiernan Shipka participated in free discussions with Elvis Mitchell following screenings of their favorite episodes at the LACMA on March 26th and 27th.
Just as Mad Men has left a lasting imprint upon TV, it will have a permanent fixture in New York, thanks to a new Don Draper bench in front of the Time-Life building, the site of the fictional Sterling Cooper ad agency.
The series’ marketing campaign primarily centers on out-of-home events and intellectual outings, but AMC has also utilized social media to interact with fans.
With the Facebook app Mad Men Carousel, viewers can input their photos into Don’s “Carousel” Kodak pitch. The Fan Cut is a promotion where viewers can claim 8 to 38 second scenes from Mad Men’s pilot and shoot and submit their own version. These will all be edited by AMC into a “quilt of fan experience.”
AMC is banking on nostalgia to bring you back for the final season, but on the day of the premiere, it’s still planning “an extensive media campaign that is driving you to tune in, [including] digital takeovers and TV advertising.”
Schupack expects fans will be tweeting, “but we are probably going to let the experience of Mad Men speak for itself.” That’s the kind of luxury only obtained by a show of Mad Men’s stature.
For more information on Mad Men’s events, check out its Website.