Coca-Cola Knew It Would Be in the Mad Men Finale, but That’s About All It Knew

'Hilltop' spot was key to the series' end

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Sunday's Mad Men finale featured a few delightful surprises, included a captivating blend of real-world creative and fictional backstory involving Coca-Cola and agency McCann Erickson. 

(Warning: spoilers ahead for those who haven't yet caught the final episode.)

In the final moments of the AMC series, Coca-Cola's famed 1971 "Hilltop" ad took center stage, with the implication being that Don Draper created the spot after being inspired at a meditation retreat.

So did the brand and the agency behind the spot (McCann, where Draper works in the show) know  that the famous ad would be featured in the closing scene? Yes, they tell Adweek, though they didn't know the details of how the ad would be used in the episode.

"We've had limited awareness around the brand's role in the series' final episodes," said a spokeswoman for Coca-Cola. "Mad Men is one of the most popular TV shows of all time, and 'Hilltop' is an iconic piece of Coca-Cola history. The finale gave everyone inside and outside the company—some for the first time—a chance to experience the magic of 'Hilltop' within the context of its creation and the times."

Allowing the show to use the spot proved to be a good move for both Coca-Cola and McCann on social media. According to Amobee data, in the three hours following the finale, there were 21,204 tweets around Coca-Cola and 2,925 around McCann. 

Asked for comment, a spokesman for McCann referred Adweek to the agency's Twitter feed—the same feed that had lifted the shop's agency mentions by 46 percent earlier this season: 

Coca-Cola was a bit slower on the draw, posting its own tweet with the spot about an hour later.

The "Hilltop" ad did stem from a McCann creative, though of course it wasn't the fictional Don Draper. It was creative director Bill Backer who created the 1971 spot.

Backer is said to have been inspired by travel woes: After a flight to London was grounded due to heavy fog, passengers were irritated and Backer noticed that they bonded together in the airport cafe. Coca-Cola posted the whole story here

Check out the spot below: 

@KristinaMonllos Kristina Monllos is a senior editor for Adweek.