Saying Goodbye to ‘Mad Men’

20 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Don Draper is, in the end, just a baby boomer’s dad.

Bill Backer lives on a farm in Virginia. Matthew Weiner, the creator of “Mad Men,” brought his melodrama of 1960s America to an end Sunday night, closing with an intriguing riddle involving Coca-Cola and the show’s central character, Don Draper. Instead, he got us hooked on the very complicated personal and professional lives of men and women working in the advertising game on Madison Avenue, setting his story amid a very detailed and very real backdrop of one of the most tumultuous decades of this nation’s history. And in 1971, Backer came up with the jingle “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” for the iconic commercial that appeared at the end of the “Mad Men” finale.

After the episode aired, many were quick to link Backer — and the ad he helped create for the McCann Erickson agency, where the fictional Draper also worked — to the show’s flawed protagonist. There were the news events, usually seeping into the narrative from a radio report or a news alert on a fuzzy black-and-white television screen — the Kennedy assassination, the Cassius Clay/Sonny Liston heavyweight bout, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the moon landing. Ken Cosgrove offered Joan some freelance work, producing industrial films, which reignited her ambitions to be her own boss and brought an abrupt end to her too-good-to-be-true romance with Richard, her super-rich LA boyfriend. I remember tossing empty milkshake cups and hamburger wrappers out the car window before anti-littering campaigns got us all to realize what a crazy thing that was. I remember my dad puffing on a pipe or a cigar as he drove, clouding up the car with smoke. “Mad Men” paid attention to details like these and took baby boomers down memory lane, even if our fathers were not womanizing, alcoholic, chain-smoking ad men.

He calls Peggy, and she tries to get him to come back home to New York and back to his job at McCann Erickson. “Don’t you want to work on Coke?” she asks. The inclusion of the so-called Hilltop commercial — which features a multicultural cast singing on a hillside — had some wondering if “Mad Men” had simply been one long advertisement. From the glistening swimming pools of Beverly Hills and the glitz of the entertainment business to the Summer of Love in San Francisco and the communal soul searching at Big Sur, California dreaming was more than just a song. It was a fitting sign-off for the Emmy-winning series, which, in its seven seasons, gave TV drama an air of sophistication and depth it doesn’t strive for often enough. It is probably the most adult show ever created for mainstream TV audiences, ambitiously breaking away from formulaic storytelling to portray one man’s search for identity.

Creator Matthew Weiner introduced us to an impossibly beautiful group of upwardly mobile white New Yorkers who pursued fame and status in a business where seduction and illusion was the name of the game. Don himself was an illusion — a Korean War vet who grew up in a brothel and stole his commanding officer’s identity to come home from the war. “Mad Men” will be remembered as the show that made every office worker wish they could join the conga line at a Sterling Cooper party. I can imagine her now, like so many women of her generation, devoting hours to finding the right assisted-living arrangement for her dad and showing up, day after day, to tend to his needs. Weiner had used, called the ending “a love letter for a brand.” (Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” got a similar jolt of attention after it was featured in the final seconds of “The Sopranos” in 2007.) Coca-Cola is not planning to run the Hilltop ad as a paid, stand-alone commercial in the near future, Ms.

Backer, who was also behind lauded campaigns for Miller beer, Campbell’s Soup and others, was then the creative director on the Coca-Cola account for McCann Erickson. Above all, he remembered feeling pressure to come up with ideas for ads. “We had to have some material,” he said. “I wanted to keep my job.” The next day, Mr. Backer said, he observed some of the passengers — “all types, ages, sexes,” he recalled — in the airport, talking and sharing bottles of warm Coca-Cola.

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