For 18 months, Mad Men viewers have been left with our noses fogging up the glass doors of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce's lobby circa 1965, impatiently awaiting our next glimpse inside the fictional advertising agency. To add to the suspense, plotlines for Season 5 have been kept strictly secret in advance of the March 25 premiere.
But if the series stays true to history, there is one way to get a sneak preview: consult real-life advertising moguls Jerry Gibbons and Robert Pritikin about what may lie ahead for Mad Men circa 1966. Pritikin and Gibbons both started at Young & Rubicam, met at Dailey & Associates in the late '60s and went on to co-found their eponymous San Francisco agency, producing iconic campaigns that traced the groovy contours of that era more closely than hip-hugging bell-bottoms.
To pick up where Mad Men left off: Season 4 ended with the publication of Roger Sterling's memoir, Sterling's Gold, recorded with a Dictaphone and currently available as a book of one-liners on Amazon.com. But Gibbons and Pritikin captured their memories as media-savvy Don Draper would circa 2012 – with Memoir Tree's free oral history iPhone app and multimedia digital content – in less time than it takes Roger Sterling to close a client deal over a three-martini lunch. If Pritikin and Gibbons' history is any indication, 1966 could be the wildest year yet for Mad Men's Don, Peggy, Pete, Joan, Roger, and even Bert.
Draper Goes Mod
Since Don Draper's ties have been getting skinnier by the televised minute, he may finally be ready to rock a new Beatles-inspired look and test-drive counterculture campaign concepts like the one Pritikin created for Chevrolet circa 1966: "Camaro will drive you absolutely mod!"
Chevrolet's campaign to introduce the sleek muscle car had apparently been calculated to reflect market research – and it flopped. Instead of capturing data points, Pritikin captured the zeitgeist, parking a Camaro in the middle of a mod happening with more polka-dotted tights and striped stovepipe trousers than a Warhol Factory party. Even the engine is described in perfect sixties-speak: "And the V8s get even groovier."
The response was overwhelming, or as Pritikin puts it, "I was the savior of General Motors." The car company may quibble about this point, but there's no denying that the car quickly became iconic - and in 1966, Don Draper belongs behind the wheel of a racing-striped Camaro.
Peggy Dabbles in Psychedelics
On a long-overdue vacation, copywriter Peggy Olson might head upstate with her new Greenwich Village hipster friends to turn on and tune out with legendary tripmaster Timothy Leary. Since LSD was legal until late 1966, she wouldn't be breaking any laws – though it could yield mind-altering copy. Flocks of butterflies or peacocks might form letters, as in Pritikin's psychedelic 1960s campaign for KABL radio at Dailey and Associates, with the tagline "Something beautiful happens."
Ever the overachiever, Peggy would immediately grasp the then-obscure phenomenon of synesthesia, a condition in which letters or sounds trigger color-specific sense memories. This could yield genuinely trippy campaigns, such as Pritikin's synesthetic radio ads for Fuller Paint. Pritikin and Gibbons hired a psychedelic rock band to play color-themed jams, with a voiceover intoning: "Stare at the sound of yellow."
The spots were such hits that one DJ set aside his playlist, letting his listeners groove to the entire rainbow of sound. In a future Mad Men season, Peggy might apply a similar concept to her first television writing gig: a children's program called Sesame Street.
Reefer References Kill Pete's Pitch
Before Gil Scott Heron's song "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" was released in 1970, advertisers hadn't entirely given up on the idea. Admiral Television may have nixed Pete Campbell's suggestion to target African American consumers circa 1963 on Mad Men - but by 1966, demographically targeted creative was winning approval and delivering results.
Demographics-savvy Pete might suggest a campaign like Pritikin and Gibbons' late-sixties Dailey and Associates campaign for Cribari Wine, marketing low-end red wines to college students with a Paul Simonesque folk singer inviting them on a "gentle journey." As though the psychedelic trip analogy weren't clear enough, Zig-Zag rolling papers were pictured floating through the background of Cribari Wine's print ads. Sales took off, introducing Californian hangovers to campuses nationwide.
But successful ads too far ahead of the cultural curve could still backfire circa 1966. Contacted by The Wall Street Journal to explain the mysterious appeal of the Cribari campaign in the elusive student market, Pritikin casually mentioned the Zig-Zag logo. When Californian grape-farmers found out that their ads included an explicit marijuana reference, the Cribari campaign was pulled. If Pete's story were to follow Pritikin and Gibbons', his demographic direction would be sorely missed: without their counterculture-marketing savvy, Cribari abandoned the youth market to specialize in altar wine.
In Part TWO, original Don Drapers Jerry Gibbons and Bob Pritikin reveal major twists ahead in 1966 for Mad Men's Joan, Roger and Bert.
These interviews were recorded using Memoir Tree, the free oral history iPhone app. Memoir Tree will be released next week to Apple's iTunes App Store; to be notified of availability, visit Memoir Tree. Author Alison Bing is an advisor to the company. No promotional consideration was given to THE FIVE for its use of promotion.