9/11 Echoes Stronger as ‘Mad Men’ Ads Hit Building Sides

Teaser campaign for Season 5 goes big

Teaser ads for Season 5 of Mad Men, showing a falling man on a stark white background above the AMC show's premiere date, have been criticized for evoking 9/11 ever since they first appeared on New York bus shelters and in subways in January. The outcry is getting even more vocal now that the campaign has moved to building sides—a more blatant visual echo of the events of that morning. Families of 9/11 victims are responding in different ways—some are offended by the ads, some aren't, some are offended by the media wondering if they're offended. The most interesting commentary on the matter has come from Esquire writer Tom Junod, who in 2003 wrote about Richard Drew's Falling Man photo—and who recently suggested (before the campaign reached building sides) that the ads aren't just an echo of 9/11 but are part of a larger revision of the American narrative since 9/11 that he believes Mad Men is chronicling. Junod writes: "If, in 2003, America was finally able to look at a two year-old photograph suggesting that it had to revise what it thought it knew about how people died on 9/11, by 2007 it was primed to watch a prime-time melodrama suggesting that it had to revise what it thought it knew about how people lived in 1960." For its part, AMC tells The New York Times: "The image of Don Draper tumbling through space has been used since the show began in 2007 to represent a man whose life is in turmoil. The image used in the campaign is intended to serve as a metaphor for what is happening in Don Draper's fictional life and in no way references actual events."

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.