AMC's "Mad Men" is a show about a 1960s advertising agency, and many of the products touted on the show are products that are still sold today. But how do 2012 ad execs feel about the old school taglines used on the show?
The Heinz Beans account has been a challenge on this season on the AMC series, with Don Draper (John Hamm) and his wingman, Harry, trying for a Rolling Stones-themed "Heinz is on our side" ad, and the now-departed Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) giving execs a heartfelt pitch with her tagline: "Home is where the Heinz is."
"It's young and it's beautiful. And no one else is going to say that about beans," a passionate Peggy campaigned, before the fictional Heinz execs told her to can it.
Peg's "bean ballet" pitch -- which featured high-tech, animated baked beans -- didn't fare any better, especially when the client suggested a campaign with protest signs touting "We want beans!"
But in real life, the Pittsburgh-based food company told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Heinz is pleased that the storyline featuring Heinz beans featured in the season-opening episode of 'Mad Men' has reappeared in recent episodes."
Company spokeswoman Jessica Jackson said, "The company was not involved in placing this product in the series, nor have we had any dialogue with the show's producers." But she added, "While not planned, the recent return of Heinz beans to the U.S. market in the form of a line of four Heinz HomeStyle Beans items coincides nicely with the timing of the show's storyline."
The gang's Season 5 pitch to Cool Whip went sour when Don's wife Megan (Jessica Pare) flew the coop, so Don tried to reenact it with Peggy as a replacement. But the back-and-forth banter over the dairy-free whipped cream substitute just wasn't the same, especially when Peggy couldn't remember the tagline "Just taste it!" (Check out Don and Peggy's lack of chemistry here.)
According to Advertising Age, one of the potential clients in this episode, played by Dennis Haskins (the guy who played Mr. Belding on "Saved By the Bell"), may well have been the likeness of real life Cool Whip creator William A. Mitchell. Not only did Mitchell invent Cool Whip, but he was also the mastermind behind Tang and Pop Rocks.
Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce's methods to land the Jaguar account were unsavory at best, but the company ultimately won the luxury car company's business with the tagline: "At last, something beautiful you can truly own."
Too bad in order to land the deal, Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) sold her soul for a five percent piece of the SCDP partnership by sleeping with a slimy Jaguar dealer.
The real life Jaguar's reaction?
David Pryor, VP-brand development for JaguarUSA, told Ad Age, "I'm a big fan of the show, and it was gratifying to see our brand portrayed….I would say we were fairly surprised at the turn of events. Obviously it was kind of tainted ... with the storyline. We would agree with Don's position that the best creative should win, not something that was less than above-board. At the end of the day, though, we're confident that people know it's a fictional character."
And the company's Twitter page showed this response: "Loved the pitch, didn't love the process. We applaud Peggy leaving SCDP."
Blast From the Past Product Placement
Of course, in past seasons of the show, product placement was just that. While Heinz and Jaguar had no agreement with "Mad Men" this season, back in Season 3 London Fog and Stolichnaya vodka did.
According to Adweek, Andrey Skurikhin, a partner at Stoli owner SPI Group, said that his company didn't pay for placement, but when the show's production company contacted him he gladly welcomed the exposure, even producing a vintage 1963 bottle of the vodka to keep in line with the show's time period.
Heineken went into a paid partnership agreement with the show, and in 2010 AMC inked a deal with Unilever for a season-long sponsorship agreement that centered on six "Mad Men"-inspired commercials for Unilever products Dove, Breyers, Hellmann's, Klondike, Suave, and Vaseline. The retro-style ads were then followed by a modern day ad for the same product.
But one of the most notorious product placements scenes involved the John Deere company in the third season "Mad Men" episode title "Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency."
When the character of Ken Cosgrove foolishly drove a John Deere tractor into the office to celebrate his landing of the tractor company's account, it resulted in a gory slaughter better suited for a slasher flick.
AMC later clarified that John Deere did not authorize the tractor driving scene and issued a statement from the company on the "Mad Men" blog: "John Deere did not participate in the development of this episode. The company does not approve of unsafe use of its equipment."
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