‘Mad Men’ Series Finale: The True Story Behind the Coca-Coca Ad

18 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Mad Men': A happy ending?.

For Don Draper, enlightenment apparently came in the form of the perfect advertising pitch. Though there was some ambiguity to Mad Men’s “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” ending, Matthew Weiner also gave viewers some clear-cut conclusions for his characters and signaled where the ’70s might take them.After spending the better part of the finale in the throes of depression, Don wound up at a retreat facility with Anna Draper’s niece, Stephanie, and had an emotional breakthrough.

After sinking to the depths of anguish, loss and emptiness in the series finale of “Mad Men,” Don ended up in lotus position, bathed in sunshine on a hillside, with a sphinx-like smile on his face. He’s now a guy who’s happy in a commune doing yoga on the ground and crying with other grown men, which made a weird amount of sense for a guy who’s lived such a guilt-filled life. But as the camera pulled close to his face—and Don let out an appropriately New Age-y “ommm”—the best creative director on Madison Avenue smiled. He tried to make some amends in a way as he tried to get Betty to allow him to come back to be with the kids when she died, but she refused his help, saying that everything needed to stay as normal as possible. The implication (which sharp viewers predicted, after so many Coke allusions in recent episodes) was that Don would return to McCann Erickson with a brilliant idea in hand for a commercial featuring a multiracial cast singing about a world living in “perfect harmony,” thanks to a particular soda.

In fact, the real-life person behind the idea was a creative director at McCann Erickson named Bill Backer, who was inspired by seeing some formerly irate air travelers communing over Cokes. The commercial looked cheesy after Don’s wrenching crisis. “Mad Men” always displayed a lot of style in telling Draper’s twisty saga in the 1960s, but series creator Matthew Weiner ultimately focused on the character’s spiritual journey.

Seems that way! (The photo on the left is from the episode; on the right, a still from the Coke commercial.) But in real life, the Coke ad wasn’t dreamed up by Don Draper. She may have stormed off after a group therapy session went wrong, but Don seems to have found his place there, and ended the episode meditating in khakis. After he admitted he was in love with her, Peggy only managed to pretend she didn’t feel the same way for a minute or two, and then he ran into her office to kiss her and it was all we ever really wanted (aside from Peggy also being the boss of everyone in the world, but we guess beggars can’t be choosers). Here we had a cast of talented, likable and interesting characters, all of them trying to find their place in a quickly-changing world, and one man that simply refused.

Backer wrote of the scene: “In that moment [I] saw a bottle of Coke in a whole new light… [I] began to see a bottle of Coca-Cola as more than a drink that refreshed a hundred million people a day in almost every corner of the globe. The show gave us wonderful, satisfying, halfway-to-fan-service endings for all the major characters: Peggy with a job that drove her and a man that respected her; Joan in control of her own destiny; Pete with power, status and stability; Roger happily enjoying himself until a pleasant and likely drunken end. He confessed his regrets to her, including stealing another man’s identity, but ignored her urgings to come home. “Mad Men” presented a hopeful future for Peggy. They were actually a subtle way of saying, ‘Let’s keep each other company for a little while.’ And [I] knew they were being said all over the world as [I] sat there in Ireland.

Why did we spend somewhere close to half of the final episode with new characters, in an entirely new setting, just sort of milling around while Don sat there, worn-looking but well-styled? He came back to work the next day and gave Kodak their carousel slide projector in what is still the greatest moment of the show: a man and a culture trying to tell themselves that what they loved was just about to come around again. She complained of his empty apartment, “It looks like a sad person lives here.” Don Draper has left the building, and so, too, has his unhappiness. It wasn’t that Don couldn’t see the difference between the lie and the truth — that difference consumed him — it’s that he believed that the lie was more important.

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