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"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner is well-known among cast and crew members as a stickler for authenticity. The AMC hit show has thus far been set in the 1960s, and the "Mad Men" team works hard to make sure the set, the props, even the furniture is from that era, meticulously researching every vintage detail of Don Draper's environment. That sense of reality extends to the clients and products the ad firm represents - Lucky Strike, American Airlines, Samsonite, Hilton, and Jaguar. It can get a little crazy. Inside a market research report for Samsonite - a prop on set - were detailed memos, and a job sheet.
It is likely flattering for certain companies to be featured in the show, but sometimes, not so much. The Lucky Strike client was a jerk. The Jaguar dealer demanded one of the show's popular characters, Joan Harris, sleep with him. And in one of the last episodes of the fifth season, there was a macabre joke about the unreliability of Jaguars when Lane Pryce tries to kill himself.
"Jaguar, I mean, they would have never agreed to participate financially in a show if they knew the story. So they didn't. So I have to do it independently of them," said Weiner. "In the end, whether they ride a roller coaster or not, in terms of how the agency feels about them, or how the show is treating them, I think for the most part, they are secretly very happy to be in the public eye on this show."
Even when companies are put through the wringer, some take the all-publicity-is-good-publicity approach. Jaguar contacted Christina Hendricks, the actress who plays Joan Harris, about doing promotion for the car, said Weiner.
But forging a relationship with companies featured in the show is not something the "Mad Men" creator is interested in doing.
"I want to have the freedom to have the hostile relationship with the product and with the client. That is the reality of this job," said Weiner.
"Being with a client is like being in a marriage. Sometimes you get in for the wrong reasons, and eventually they hit you in the face," says Roger Sterling, one of the show's wry characters.
The employees of Sterling Cooper Draper Price are "in a subservient position. They are constantly taking these people to dinner and entertaining them, and trying to get involved in their personal lives, so that they can take their money," said Weiner.
"From the very beginning, I've always wanted to have real products," said Weiner. The show creator says entertainment company Lionsgate, which produces "Mad Men," has been very supportive, as long as the show honors the trademark. Weiner says he also does not take credit for real writers' advertising, for example making Don Draper write some famous ad that in fact belongs to someone else.
"I’m always trying to be respectful about the past, but there are certain things that fall in the crack of these two universes," says Weiner. "And I’m grateful for the fact of when we use the real products that it suits the story."
All the advertising used in the show is woven in to tell a thematic, entertaining story about the "Mad Men" characters, said Weiner.
If Jaguar is happy with it, that’s neither here nor there. But I would say that honestly, almost all the feedback that I've ever gotten about products on the show has been positive," said Weiner. "They’re always offering to pay to be in the show, but there [are] too many strings that come with that."