Make Some 'Mad Men' Happy: Put Commercials Inside TV Shows

There's too many doctors, lawyers, and cops as the fodder on TV shows. But the flavor of the moment seems to be advertising executives.

"Mad Men," a series about a 1960 New York City advertising agency, debuted last month on AMC. Yesterday, NBC Universal's USA Network announced an Internet destination,, which will be a free archive of new and vintage TV spots, movie trailers and other brand-related content.

Now there's word TNT and Warner Horizon is developing a new advertising-related drama called "Truth In Advertising," from two writers who had worked at Leo Burnett.

The aim of the TNT effort, according to executive producer Greer Shephard, will include real-life products but not, she says, to be profiled in big commercial "beauty shots."

So now we get it. When people talk of branded entertainment and how organic it can be, they must be talking about fictional scripted TV shows about advertising agencies. Because that's really the only place where talking about a product and its virtues can be truly organic.



Now if every network has at least one prime-time show about advertising, that'll give all those who preached that product integration was the second coming enough shows to make sure no major advertiser will lose one rating point due to ratings erosion, commercial rating guarantees, the Internet, or, perhaps, TV's conversion to digital from analog.

Now we'll have "commercials inside TV shows." What a concept. So far on "Mad Men," we've had Lucky Strike, Bethlehem Steel, Volkswagen, and the fictional New York City department store Menken's.

In the past, "thirtysomething" gave us a few real-life products in a show that featured two characters working at an ad agency in Philadelphia. Before that, Darrin Stevens in "Bewitched" did his best to keep his friend and advertising agency boss Larry Tate happy with whatever clients came their way.

Is there real drama in advertising? Some. But many advertising executives surveying "Mad Men" believe all that drinking and sleeping around to be a lot of exaggeration.

Losing and winning accounts may be the extent of life-and-death situations at agencies. But there's only so much life and death in medical shows, cop dramas, presidential administration shows, or small-time crime families, one can handle.

Who knew the real excitement was in a good media plan?

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