'Mad Men's' Not-So-Sweet Season-Ending Product Association

Hershey, the candy company, wound up being a big part of the final episode of season six of AMC’s “Mad Men,” but probably not with the association it usually seeks. The association wasn’t Hershey’s decision, but that of “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner.

In the episode, fictional advertising man Don Draper winds up pitching Hershey’s executives for their business by spinning a tender yarn about how his father’s connection with him resulted in a Hershey’s chocolate bar.

Then, right in the middle of his pitch, he decides to change his mind and tell the truth.

He explains that he actually grew up in a Pennsylvania whorehouse, not knowing his father. He’d pickpocket the johns while the woman who was taking care of him had sex. Some of that money would go towards buying a Hershey bar where, for just a moment, he would taste the “sweetness” of life. He then tells Hershey executives not to advertise.



Draper’s character is built on falsehoods -- and spinning tales. That’s good for the advertising business where one needs to think quickly on your feet.

For decades, companies like Hershey would avoid such real-life comparisons. Hershey, like many other consumer product brands, can be extremely sensitive to so-called non-family content.

One major incident occurred in the late ‘80s, when singer Cher appeared in a not-leaving-much-to-the-imagination outfit during an MTV performance. Hershey had been a major MTV advertiser and, according to reports, then pulled a massive amount of advertising from the network.

More than two decades later, things have changed. Consumer product companies -- especially those careful about content -- may be a little looser with certain associations.  Still, many of them probably don’t run ads on AMC, whose other shows involve zombies (“The Walking Dead”), a methamphetamine producer/dealer (“Breaking Bad”) and murder investigations (“The Killing”). AMC’s older, more upscale audience isn’t the target audience for many of these products.

Again, Hershey had nothing to do with the content on “Mad Men,” which was purely a creative producer’s decision.

A Hershey representative reportedly said, "The company was thrilled and incredibly flattered to be part of such a popular television show... Obviously we know that this is a fictitious television show set in the 1960s.”

But, more importantly, Hershey will likely use the episode "to educate our internal workforce to show [the] power of this iconic brand that we get to live with and work with every day."

That includes all kind of associations  -- the good, the bad, the ugly, -- and now, the mad.

3 comments about "'Mad Men's' Not-So-Sweet Season-Ending Product Association".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Rob Frydlewicz from DentsuAegis, June 27, 2013 at 3:26 p.m.

    Although I doubt a whorehouse setting would be approved as an ad concept (except on SNL), the way Hershey's was used to illustrate the power of a brand to provide uplift in unfortunate of circumstances was masterfully done - and only enhanced Hershey's image. This reminded me of a company I once had a meeting with that did focus groups using hypnosis. A video was shown of subjects, under hypnosis, talking about their positive, and negative, associations with eating Jell-O. Some of the recollections were very touching.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, June 27, 2013 at 4:01 p.m.

    Hershey came out quite tasty. A nickel Hershey Bar and its sister $.03 Lunch Bar were always a great affordable treat and in the good stuff pile of the 5 cent candy bars at Halloween. (We had 70 row houses on the block with most having decorated porches, did both sides plus a few more blocks.) I may even cave to buy one next time at the store.

  3. Tim Orr from Barnett Orr Marketing Group, Inc., June 27, 2013 at 6:25 p.m.

    I agree with Rob and Paula. BOTH of Don's stories were positive about Hershey's, both in the fictional "then" and in the "now."

Next story loading loading..