A Taste Of Madison Avenue
In an age where TV programmes are ruthlessly and brutally cancelled even when they have a dedicated fanbase, where quality programming sometimes struggles to find an audience despite boasting critical acclaim and where some truly outstanding series can’t even get regular transmission on UK TV screens, Mad Men is a true rarity.
For it not only has a legion of fans in the press, but can proudly point to a devoted army of followers in this country. And such is its cachet, the programme was the subject of a high profile transfer between TV channels, making the move from BBC to Sky Atlantic in a major deal. What’s more, the exploits of Don Draper and co were used, almost ironically, to advertise the launch of the aforementioned Sky Atlantic, even if they weren’t due to air for some months afterwards.
All this for a series that’s now in its fifth season. When some others would be going off the boil after lengthy outings, Mad Men has managed to stay on top of its game too. The programme is as good as it’s ever been.
Furthermore as its reputation has grown, and its mentions in the press, from the quality newspapers through to tabloids, so have its sales on DVD and Blu-ray.
“Sales have exceeded our expectations season after season,” says Lionsgate’s Ben Grunbaum, currently preparing for the release of the recently aired fifth season of the programme, due on November 5. “With the popularity of TV boxsets at the moment, Mad Men continues to sell at new release and at campaign. People want to own it and show it off on their DVD shelves.”
Continued mentions in the press must help its reputation – and Lionsgate’s sales too. “Very much so,” Grunbaum admits. “It’s loved by readers from The Guardian, to The Sun and The Daily Mail. Being a quality product in terms of look, feel and storyline gives it a timeless quality that continues to thrive.”
The fifth season keeps that quality at a premium. As Grunbaum explains: “The writers have really thought it through and this season keeps the tempo going from the last season. Now deep into the 60s, it was a time of change which fits seamlessly into Don and co getting that bit older and having to deal with fresh new things coming through. Something we can all relate too.”
The nostalgia element of Mad Men is key not just to its success, but it also helps Lionsgate when it comes to marketing. “The retro look that Mad Men has,” says Grunbaum, “means we can market it along the same lines and people instantly recognise it. Few brands give you that. You just need to remember that there is no smiling from the cast. It’s as stern a look as possible.”
The distinct look and feel of the programme has helped when it comes to special packaging too. Lionsgate’s release of the fifth series will come as a limited edition offering that includes a Madison Avenue-style whiskey glass. As Grunbaum explains: “The idea pretty much came up from me wanting to have some whiskey whilst watching the show – I don’t smoke so this was the best other option. So I went out and bought a bottle of Canadian Club that Don often drinks and had some while watching it. I then thought how cool it would be if you had one of those stylish drinks glasses too and the idea snowballed from there. Finding the only supplier that sold Madison Avenue whiskey glasses and adding in some drinks mats and numbering each boxset for that premium feel, I think it’s a pretty unique idea that hasn’t been done before on such a major release and been led by the UK.
My premise for this is to make it the perfect gift for the Mad Men fan. Lionsgate is fully behind this idea and gave me the confidence to create and turn into a world exclusive.”
It will be featured in what is an impressive marketing campaign for the title. “We have a large press, radio and online campaign planned focussing on the quality nature of the product,” says Grunbaum. “This kind of product is quite unusual in that it has a premium feel to it and appeals pretty evenly to males and females at the same time.”
Further plans include third party promotions, media launch events (cocktail-making, anyone?) and other stunts and events. In keeping with the special packaging and other elements, there will be a distinct retro feel to them; after all, this is part of the series’ appeal.
As Grunbaum concludes: “Don once famously said in Season 1 about the Carousel, I think its appeal is all about nostalgia. ‘It’s delicate, but potent. In Greek, nostalgia literally means the pain from an old wound. It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone.’
“And I think Mad Men gives us that twinge of wanting to experience and have lived in that exciting era on Madison Avenue. There’s no let up from Season 5 and there is more to come.”
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