Tampons, Cigarettes and Automobiles: 'Mad Men's' 10 Best Ad Campaigns
The drama's most noteworthy campaigns include the Kodak Carousel, Jaguar and Heinz.
In Mad Men's first episode, Don Draper says that advertising is based on one thing: happiness. He spends the next seven seasons and however many years seeking to make his clients happy, with Don and company pitching concepts and campaigns for everyone from Lucky Strike to Playtex to Heinz. In honor of their always-innovative copy, we've compiled a list of their most memorable campaigns and pitches.
Product: Lucky Strike
Episode: Season one's "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"
Tagline: "Lucky Strike: It's toasted."
Why It Ranks: This is the pitch that started it all. When the government passes a law that tobacco companies can no longer advertise their products as being safe, Sterling Cooper's biggest client, Lucky Strike, threatens to leave the agency if they don't come up with a viable advertising strategy. After new hire Pete's (Vincent Kartheiser) death wish pitch offends them, Don (Jon Hamm) effortlessly comes up with his own off the cuff. He suggests that Lucky Strike's campaign should focus on the cigarette's toasting process, so that while consumers will think other tobacco company's products are poisonous, they'll associate Lucky Strike's with toasting instead. Don's confidence charms Lucky Strike's owners, even if they're a little confused by the concept at first.
Product: Kodak Carousel
Episode: Season one's "The Wheel"
Why It Ranks: In this emotional and intimate pitch for Kodak's newest slide projector, Don uses photographs of his own family to tug the heartstrings of the executives. Even Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) is overcome, leaving the room crying at the end of the presentation. Don explains that the projector shouldn't be called "the Wheel" as the manufacturers wanted, but instead should be called "the Carousel." "This device isn't a spaceship. It's a time machine," he says. "It lets us travel the way a child travels. Around and around and back home again to a place where we know we are loved." The execs are awestruck, and Duck Phillips (Mark Moses) concludes the presentation, smugly wishing them luck at their next meeting.
Product: Patio Cola
Episode: Season three's "The Arrangements"
Why It Ranks: The executives for Pepsi's newest diet soda drop by Sterling Cooper with a clear vision for a Bye Bye Birdie-themed commercial in which an Ann-Margret look-alike will sing about Patio Cola in an exact replica of the film's opening sequence. But when the agency presents the finished product, the clients admit that it's exactly what they wanted but lament that something about it isn't right. After they leave, Roger (John Slattery) sums up their dissatisfaction: "It's not Ann-Margret."
Product: Sugarberry Ham
Episode: Season four's "Public Relations"
Why It Ranks: Peggy's (Elisabeth Moss) ridiculous suggestion for boosting Sugarberry ham sales is so unconventional that it practically demands to be included. She proposes to Pete that he hire two actresses to fight over a Sugarberry ham at the grocery store, and although at first he grumbles that publicity stunts aren't billable, he eventually agrees. (He also gleefully mentions that if he says they're prostitutes, he can charge it to his expense account.) Despite the fact that one of the actresses presses assault charges against the other, prompting Peggy to pay them off, Sugarberry loves the performance and sales increase.
Product: Heinz Beans
Episode: Season five's "At the Codfish Ball"
Tagline: "Heinz Beans: Some things never change."
Why It Ranks: Although Don is the one who pitches this concept to the Heinz people at dinner after finding out they are planning to drop the agency, the idea itself was originally Megan's (Jessica Pare). After Peggy strikes out with the finicky client, Megan envisions a series of commercials starring a mother and son cooking and eating Heinz beans throughout history. Don takes the lead on the pitch, but Megan seamlessly chips in as if they'd practiced together for hours. The dinner ends with a call for celebratory champagne and Don beaming at Megan like a proud parent.
Episode: Season five's "The Other Woman"
Tagline: "Jaguar: At last, something beautiful you can truly own."
Why It Ranks: Thanks to Ginsberg's (Ben Feldman) suggestion, Don's pitch compares owning a Jaguar automobile to possessing a gorgeous women — an analogy the executives are pleased with. "What price would we pay?" Don asks them. "What behavior would we forgive if they weren't pretty, if they weren't temperamental? If they weren't beyond our reach and a little out of our control, would we love them like we do?" His pitch is impressive on its own, but tainted by the string attached: If Joan (Christina Hendricks) spends one night with Herb Rennet (Gary Basaraba), head of the Jaguar Dealers Association, he'll support Sterling Cooper Draper Price's bid. Joan goes through with it in exchange for a 5 percent partnership stake in the company, and glimpses of her night are interwoven with the Jaguar pitch. We'll never know if Don's idea would have been sufficient to win the business without her involvement.
Product: Heinz Ketchup (Don's Pitch)
Episode: Season six's "To Have and to Hold"
Tagline: "Pass the Heinz"
Why It Ranks: This is a unique case of Don vs. Peggy. After Peggy moves to Cutler, Gleason and Chaough, the two compete against each other for the Heinz account. Don presents first, proposing a series of ads featuring mouthwatering pictures of food and the simple slogan "Pass the Heinz." The executive seems intrigued, but asks to think about it. While leaving, Don is surprised to see Peggy and her team entering, not realizing that the Heinz executives are listening to multiple bids.
Product: Heinz Ketchup (Peggy's Pitch)
Episode: Season six's "To Have and To Hold"
Tagline: "Heinz. The Only Ketchup."
Why It Ranks: Don listens at the door as Peggy opens her pitch with an old Don standby. "If you don't like what they're saying, change the conversation," she says, referencing the general mistaken belief that ketchup and catsup are the same product. To distinguish ketchup as the superior condiment, she proposes a 40-foot billboard in Times Square, with a picture of the Heinz bottle and the tagline "Heinz. The Only Ketchup." Ultimately, neither agency wins the business, but the strength of Peggy's pitch and Don's face as he listens at the door hint that in this case, the student may have surpassed the master.
Episode: Season six's "In Care Of"
Why It Ranks: Although horribly unsuccessful, Don's attempt at a pitch to the Hershey's executives is an unusual moment of transparency and honesty from a notoriously private man. Don begins his presentation by describing a made-up childhood memory in which his father would take him to the drugstore to buy a Hershey's chocolate bar after he mowed the lawn. "His love and chocolate were tied together," he says. "That's the story we're going to tell. Hershey's is the currency of affection. It's the childhood symbol of love." The executives are happy with the concept, but with his hands shaking, Don continues to speak. Don talks about his real childhood as an orphan living in a brothel. He admits that the rare Hershey's bar was "the only sweet thing in my life." Roger, Ted (Kevin Rahm) and Jim (Harry Hamlin) watch Don unravel in horrified stupors. They did not win the account.
Product: Burger Chef
Episode: Season seven's "Waterloo"
Tagline: "Family Supper at Burger Chef."
Why It Ranks: In the midseason finale, Don hands the hamburger restaurant's reins to Peggy the night before the pitch. Although initially nervous (she points out Don has never seen her present before), Peggy is confident and clear, explaining that the sense of community and family she felt while watching the recent moon landing are similar to the feeling of companionship at Burger Chef, where "we can have the connection we're hungry for." The client is pleased and calls later to give them the account.