Mad Men has been all over the news, from showrunner Matthew Weiner’s contract dispute with AMC to disputes about how advertising should be used on the show. Isn’t Mad Men about advertising? Sure. But that doesn’t mean Weiner should sacrifice his creative integrity.
AdAge reports that AMC’s demands–which include product placement and cutting episode length to accommodate ads– “On the surface…could sound like a money-focused corporation trying to keep costs down, no matter what such requirements do to a beautiful piece of content,” but goes on to argue that Mad Men, at $3 million per episode, is not cheap to make, and doesn’t bring in the kind of viewership, as, say NCIS. The older the show gets, the more money is requires. AdAge concludes: “The people who make Mad Men may think they’ve done something special, and from a creative viewpoint, they have. But the people who run the media outlet that airs Mad Men have to take more than creativity into consideration. They have to figure out whether putting Mad Men on the air will help them make money.” They’ve got more numbers here.
On the other side of the Mad negotiations, show creator Weiner tells uber-fan blog Basket of Kisses: “There’s been a lot of speculation and misinformation in the press about what is going on. I want the fans to know directly from me that I had nothing to do with this delay and it is not about money. I am fighting for the cast and for the show. And I appreciate the kindness and concern of the fans.” As for Weiner’s alleged $30 million paycheck, he says: “First of all, the number that’s been published is not true. Second of all, I offered to have less money, to save the cast, and to leave the show in the running time that it’s supposed to be. The harder that I’ve fought for the show, the more money that they’ve offered me.” Here’s more on the potential cast cuts. Weiner’s comments were met with oodles of support via comments on the blog, while an AdAge commenter says “You’re kidding, right?…If ad hacks get to wag the dog, they’ll kill the Golden Goose that is Mad Men, and drive all those high-income viewers over to shows not written by advertising agencies.”
If you want to lift the curtain on entertainment advertising (and understand Weiner and fans’ concerns), check out Morgan Spurlock’s documentary (POM Wonderful Presents:) The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (limited release April 22). It will illuminate just how blatant (and affronting to audience intelligence) product placement can be, how meaningful partnerships are possible as a means to an end, and most importantly, that without someone sticking up for artistic integrity (and investigative curiosity) our ability to think for ourselves (and recognize high quality entertainment) is up for grabs to the highest bidder.