Mad Men Season 5 = Terrorism?

According to this article posted by (and re-posted by the Washington Post), some controversy is brewing over the promotional poster for the new season of AMC’s hit show Mad Men.

Here’s the offending poster, captured on the side of a pay phone kiosk:

Apparently, all the buzz surrounds the idea that the ad is insensitive to victims of the September 11 attacks, as the photo is considered by some as reminiscent of this photo from the day of the attacks, in which a man falls to his death from the North tower of the World Trade Center.

really? The minimalist ad, featuring simply the silhouette character from the show’s opening credits and the date of the new season’s premiere (after more than a year on hiatus), is incredibly minimalist. The argument was made that those who aren’t familiar with the show’s credit sequence and haven’t seen the show before wouldn’t necessarily know the symbolism behind the ad, so we here at Three Yards took it upon ourselves to conduct a little blind research.

We showed the offending ad to several colleagues and posed the question “What is the first thing you think of when you see this photo?” Every one (of our admittedly small sample size) merely shrugged. “No clue,” was the most common response. We then asked “Have you ever seen the television show Mad Men?” and the answer, again, was an across-the-board no.

So…not one of our unwitting guinea pigs immediately jumped to “OMG HOW INSENSITIVE THIS IS 9/11 YOU TERRORIST MONSTER!”

Not one.

To be fair, we also conducted research asking if Elmo brought forth thoughts of terror. Those tests were inconclusive.

Tickle what?

Suffice it to say the idea that the entertainment executives in charge of a television show set in New York (who would ultimately have approval over any advertising materials released to the public) would look at this and allow it to be released if they even thought it could be construed as insensitive to the victims of 9/11 is ridiculous. South Park, a show famous for its social and political parodies delivered without concern for the repercussions, hasn’t even done anything with the idea of the 9/11 attacks. Basically, that entire subject is still important enough in the American psyche that not even an entertainment venue widely considered the most insensitive show on television won’t touch 9/11.

We’re not saying that media companies and advertising firms shouldn’t be sensitive to the issue. They should be. All we’re trying to say is that an initial response to this advertisement, calling it “macabre” or linking it to 9/11 in any way is something we’re going to term “Excess Idiocy of the Week.” This from an ad writer, of all people! He should know that an ad like this is minimalist for a reason. Those unfamiliar with the show will ask themselves “What the fuck is March 25?” not say “Man, 9/11!”

It’s all very meta, really: an ad about a show about an ad executive causing a sensitivity controversy, when the show is set in an era when such a thing didn’t exist.

Man, wouldn’t it be weird if the design of the ad mirrored something appropriate from that decade, in a “We pay a lot of attention to detail to period, and we’re tying it in” sort of way?

Boom. Hitchcocked.

Thank you, Saul Bass. Thank you.

(Information from the Washington Post, Wikipedia, Copyranter, Wetpaint and DesignNotes was used in this article.)


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