For the Return of ‘Mad Men,’ an Ad Pitch Comes Wrapped in an Enigma (NYTimes.com)

 

It is a challenge worthy of the archetypal adman Don Draper: How do you promote the start of the next season of a television series that a contract dispute delayed by seven or eight months?       

 

A “Mad Men” campaign is centered on the Don Draper character.                           

A teaser ad used the “falling man” of the show’s opening.                           

Draper, alas, is not available to help solve the problem, for two reasons. One, he is a fictional character. Also, the series in question is his own, “Mad Men,” the critically acclaimed drama about Madison Avenue, and America, in the 1960s.       

Absent Draper, AMC, the cable channel that has been home to “Mad Men” since 2007, has decided that the best way to counter any potential flagging of interest caused by the hiatus is to step up promotional efforts, created internally, for the coming season, the fifth.       

So, for the first time, there was teaser advertising devoted to “Mad Men,” which used the familiar “falling man” image from the opening credits to announce that Season 5 would begin on March 25.       

That is being followed this week with a full-throated campaign, in print, online and outdoors, inviting viewers to tune in March 25 for a season premiere that, for the first time, will run two hours rather than one.       

“I wanted the audience to get excited, to give them what I hope is a reward for sticking with the show,” Matthew Weiner, who created the series, said of the two-hour debut.       

The campaign is centered on an enigmatic image of Draper, played by Jon Hamm, staring at mannequins in a store window. Also visible are his reflection and the reflection of a gritty New York street scene. The dense image seems sure to stimulate conversation — actual or on social media — among “Mad Men” fans (and detractors).       

“This is a dreamlike image,” Mr. Weiner said, likening it to work of the Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico, who specialized in surreal, mannequin-like figures.       

The image is “a nonverbal representation of where my head is at and where the show will be,” Mr. Weiner said.       

“By the end of the season,” he said, “I guarantee you’ll know what it is about.”       

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