Mad Men pitch the Kodak Carousel

There's few shows on television packing as much punch as AMC's Mad Men. On the surface of things, the concept couldn't be more dull: Madison Avenue advertising men pitching campaigns in the 60's. But Joel's pitch to me when he first saw it soaks up every background element of the show and defines it into a formula:

There's plenty to criticize about the show, but for me it's cut-to-fit: gorgeous, full-bodied women in painted-on dresses; whisky by the barrel, cigarettes by the carton, a steak on every plate; men's formal fashion at the turn of its last great change, affording older men to wear worsted three pieces and young bucks to sport skinny ties and sharkskin; a look at the office of the career man; swingin' New York, half beat poets and half modern opulence; all predicated with seething, soaking dissatisfaction for the post-war utopia they're living in. I'm not sure its message is terribly profound, but it is mid-century pornography that appeals to nearly all my sensibilities.
Where Joel is wrong is that the message can be terribly profound. This scene — in which ad man Donald Draper pitches a campaign to a toe-dipping Kodak Co. for their new line of "wheel projectors" — is devastating in its poignancy. "This isn't a space ship... it's a time machine." Go watch Mad Men. Mad Men: The Carousel [YouTube]
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13 Responses to Mad Men pitch the Kodak Carousel

  1. zuzu says:

    Mad Men is most innovative when it fixates on this kind of hindsight of “public relations”. The best one was use in the pilot episode,

    The reason you haven’t felt it is because it doesn’t exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons. You’re born alone and you die alone and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts. But I never forget. I’m living like there’s no tomorrow, because there isn’t one.

    AMC picked up all the great shows that HBO passed on, such as this and also Breaking Bad.

  2. Jack says:

    I think Mad Men is fine, but without seeing the full episode, I think most people with half a brain can deduce there are some family/relationship issues Donald Draper is dealing with that echo in the slideshow being presented.

    As far as nostalgia goes, I hate to say it but nostalgia, mortality and youth are key tools to a marketers trade. Heck, it all comes down to happiness as well; wasn’t there a book about that?

    A whole other thread can be spun on the topic, but marketing nowadays is fascinating. And Mad Men is fascinating because it brings many of the basic concepts and *cough* lies *cough* of marketing to the masses. Kudos for that!

  3. Zaren says:

    Two things:

    First, I’ve been sitting on my father-in-law’s slides for months now, putting off the hours I know I’ll have to put into sorting through them to put them onto dvd. It’s time to get cracking on that.

    Second, I think I’m going to have to see if this show is on Hulu or whatever other network-sponsored video site they might be on. That scene not only looked pretty good, but it was pretty good writing, even though I’m sure I missed a lot of context.

  4. teckels says:

    How very compelling. It makes me miss things things like getting out the projector and watching home movies in my Pajamas as a child.

  5. montauk says:

    I’m not sure that scene is very poignant. There was a really similar scene in Ugly Betty awhile ago – the first pitch was all about flash, the second (successful) pitch showed family photos and emphasized nostalgia. But I’m not sure that Ugly Betty is that poignant.

    Ryan, I’m an “intelligent woman” and feminist and I’m not drooling over this show even after several episodes. It’s just a meh in my books. Whether it’s Entourage masculinity or Mad Men masculinity, it’s still not doing much for me, innovation-wise.

  6. Stefan Jones says:

    An amazing scene, especially in context.

    I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t seen season one, but Draper is having a big realization while viewing those slides.

  7. sisyphus says:


    I went into this series (who would have thought that BBG would get me hooked on a television show?) having thoroughly studied Curtis’ “Century of the Self” and I thought it most interesting that Bernay’s notion of advertising via psychoanalysis is pretty much thrown out in favor of Draper’s pragmatism in the pilot episode.
    Or, at least, preference is given to, say, sexual drive over Freud’s “death wish.”
    In any case, I find “Mad Men” very intriguing, but I won’t dissemble: it’s swaggering, chain-smoking machismo appeals to my sensibilities. In that regard, I’m with Joel.

  8. mgfarrelly says:

    I’m not one for getting geared up for a tv show (tv being a medium that’s rarely well done being the pithy way to put it) but last season Mad Men made me gasp out loud at a single line and I became nothing short of a fan boy.

    Talking about his office Don Draper says “This place has more failed writers and artists than the third riech”. Off the cuff, perfectly devastating in its damnation of middle-class intellectual mediocrity.

    Made me look at my own workplace too…

  9. Ryan Rapolsive says:

    That is definitely a great scene to showcast Madmen but to fully grasp the whole context of it you really have to watch that whole episode and be submerged in the story.

    Draper is a great character. I feel he is always in the gap of generations, social classes, and moral dilemas. He is the transport that allows you to move around anywhere and anytime (with his flashbacks).

    The hard crowd to win over is intelligent women. Their first intuition is to see it as celebration of frat boy mentality. While they uprise in a pose resembling rosey the riveter quickly tackle them back to the couch. Apply pressure to keep their eyes bugged. Allow the show to progress and they will be hooked. WARNING: Do not try within 30 minutes of eating or heavy drinking.


  10. John Brownlee says:

    Yes, this scene is better in context… but surely all will admit I can’t spell out the context in this setting.

    As for #4: I always find your perspective curious (not contemptible, just curious). I think television is the best it has ever been. A renaissance.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I’d suggest that anyone who finds Mad Men intriguing go and watch Adam Curtis’ documentary series ‘The Century of the Self’. It folds the history of the C20th, the changing faces of psychotherapy and its offshoots, and aspects of pop culture into a narrative tied together by the history of Public Relations.

    Wikipedia says:

    quote- “This series is about how those in power have used Freud’s theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy.” – Adam Curtis

    Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, changed the perception of the human mind and its workings profoundly. His influence on the 20th century is widely regarded as massive. The documentary describes the impact of Freud’s theories on the perception of the human mind, and the ways public relations agencies and politicians have used this during the last 100 years for their “engineering of consent”.

    Among the main characters are Freud himself and his nephew Edward Bernays, who was the first to use psychological techniques in advertising. -unquote

    The ‘story arc’ of ‘century of the self’ seems to mirror that of some of the themes being expounded in Mad Men. Although ‘the hidden persuaders’ predates all this, ‘century’ places the psychological and political underpinnings of how we are told what it means to be happy, in context.

    you can watch century of the self on the internet archive:

    (PS sorry for the long long comment)

  12. Reluctant_Paladin says:

    I remember sitting with my parents and sisters when I was a boy, watching slides from vacations and the like. The color of the kodachrome slides still stands out in my mind’s eye.

    I’m calling tonight and making sure those slides are someplace safe :)

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