NEW YORK Fans of the AMC’s Mad Men know that the show, about fictional 1960s advertising agency Sterling Cooper, names other real-life agencies and brands to achieve some verisimilitude.
What they may not know is that some of those are actual product placements.
The show’s third season, which premiered Sunday, featured placements with London Fog and Stolichnaya vodka that both brands said were engineered. (Related: “It’s a Mad, Mad World.”)
In the first episode of the third season, London Fog is a client of Sterling Cooper’s and the father and son running the company appear at odds about the direction of the brand, leading Mad Men’s protagonist, Don Draper (Jon Hamm), to dream up a new ad campaign.
Stoli, meanwhile, gets the thumbs up from agency head Roger Sterling (John Slattery), who is shown celebrating with the drink and denying upstart Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) the vodka (“Not the Stoli!”) A rep for London Fog confirmed that the brand’s placement was indeed facilitated by the company’s pr agency, though she didn’t say if any money changed hands.
Andrey Skurikhin, a partner at SPI Group, which owns the Stoli brand, said that he didn’t pay for placement. Skurikhin said Mad Men’s production company contacted him and, he, being a fan of the show, gladly acquiesced, even producing a bottle from 1963 to conform to the show’s historical accuracy. But was Stoli even available in the U.S. at that time? Not widely, Skurikhin said, but it’s plausible that the high rollers at Sterling Cooper might have been able to access a bottle.
Skurikhin said he had no idea about future placements, but is pursuing others for the vodka: “It’s one of the great tools of brand awareness.”
When asked whether other brands mentioned on the show on previous seasons like Utz and Cadillac were paid placements, AMC president and general manager Charlie Collier was coy: “We absolutely have product integration on the show, but you shouldn’t know which ones are paid and which ones aren’t.” Collier also declined to name other brands that will be part of season three, citing a diktat by Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner not to reveal any details, no matter how mundane, about upcoming episodes.