Mad Men Creator Matthew Weiner Looks Back on His Show and What It Taught Him About Advertising

For a new, lavish book about the iconic series

Mad Men ended a year and a half ago, and now Matthew Weiner is finally ready to close the book on his iconic TV series about '60s advertising. The creator has partnered with Taschen for Matthew Weiner's Mad Men, a lavish, spectacular two-volume set that looks back on all seven seasons of the series, which starred Jon Hamm as Don Draper.

The elaborate, 16-pound set—a love letter to Mad Men and its fans—is split into two volumes: Vol. 1 presents an overview of the show's most compelling dialogue and imagery; Vol. 2 contains new, in-depth interviews about the series with Weiner, the show's writers, several key production staffers and Hamm. It also includes new behind-the-scenes photos, Weiner's personal notes about the show, production sketches and some of Mad Men's most famous advertising concepts.

The new book contains tons of behind-the-scenes info for fans. All images courtesy of Taschen

The creator has been working on the project with Taschen founder Benedikt Taschen and Josh Baker, the editor and designer, since Season 3. Matthew Weiner's Mad Men retails for $200, though several online retailers are selling it for closer to $140.

Weiner hasn't talked about Mad Men much since last year's finale, as he focused on writing a novel (Heather, the Totality, due out next year) and creating his next series, which will stream on Amazon and be set in the present-day.

However, he agreed to speak with Adweek about Mad Men (and how his perspective on the show has changed in the past year), the new book, what he thinks about advertising now and his upcoming Amazon series.

 

Adweek: What was the thinking behind the approach to the book?

Matthew Weiner: We wanted to have an experience that was different than owning the DVD. There is a lot of extra information, and a visual treatment of it that I think is an extra experience. It might be a little fetishistic, but it's an extra experience that is very different than watching the show. If you look at this book, you might dream about it afterwards. You can flip through the pages, and, even if you don't know the show, go into our world, and that's something that I never anticipated. I've very pleased that it came out that way.

What has it been like looking at the finished book, especially now that you've had some distance from finishing up Mad Men?

Honestly, when you see it all together like that, it feels like someone else did it. You do something over a 10-year period—and you can see from my notes in there that it had been on my mind since 1993—and so it's already unreal that we did 92 hours of it. There's something about seeing it in print, and seeing it in the Taschen format. Seeing all those years of work, and all those people's work and the actors transforming and the characters transforming … it's not real to me, in a weird way. It's kind of overwhelming.

 

The book also assembles several scraps of paper, on which you wrote bits of dialogue or character development on the fly. Is that how you operate, scribbling something down whenever an idea pops into your head?

Yeah. I used this in the show, but at a certain point, especially when you're starting out, you don't realize that a lot of these stray thoughts you have are actually valuable. And after working with David Chase [on The Sopranos] and seeing these key bits of life, or dialogue, or anything, you think, if it's important, you'll remember it. But you don't, really. I said in the show, and it was actually quoted by some other writers on the Sopranos, that Chinese proverb: "The faintest ink is better than the best memory." I'm like, "I'm an experienced enough writer to know that some of these stray thoughts are valuable, and I'm too old to think that I'm going to remember anything." The more you get in the habit of writing things down, the more you're like, "Wait, that was important to me." So, I learned to take my passing thoughts seriously. That said, anybody reading this should know that 90 percent of them were useless. (laughs) There's a drawer full of garbage [notes] that are not on the show!

 

Several of the show's advertising concepts and pitches are also included in the book. You were so immersed in all aspects of the production, so did the ads on the show come from you as well?