If you’re not familiar with AMC’s hit series Mad Men, the show is based on a 1960s advertising agency that uses real products and how they were actually marketed during that time. The advertising agency, Sterling Cooper & Partners, includes products such as the classic Kodak carousel slide projector, Howard Johnson motels and Heinz Baked Beans. While the show does revolve around the company and its advertising and marketing, it also surrounds the lives and relationships of the employees who work there.
For the fourth season of the Mad Men box set, the filmmaker Cicely Gilkey performed a real-life case study called “Marketing of the Mustang: An American Icon,” a 30-minute documentary that provides an inside look at one of the most successful new product launches in automotive history.
Actual Mustang advertising never made it into the story line of Mad Men, but in the sixth season of the box set, several references were made to the brand. In an episode called “For Immediate Release,” the creative chief Don Draper rounds up his team to fill them in on a secret new car that they plan to pitch in 1968.
Draper tells his writers, “It’s totally new, I want you to go to the library and get me everything you can on Mustang. They know there’s been nothing before Mustang and nothing after, but they’re hoping it’s this.”
In the real world, Ford Motor Company sold over 1 million Mustangs in the first 20 months after its debut to the world in April of 1964. Those numbers are unheard of today for an all-new vehicle even with today’s large market.
To get the information Gilkey dug deep into the Ford archives in Dearborn, Michigan. "Ford gave me carte blanche to whatever archives I needed, shared and arranged for me to film on the track and much more,” said Gilkey. “They also introduced me to John Clor at Ford Racing.”
John Clor handles grassroots communications and produces and sells high-performance parts for Ford vehicles. He is also the contact person at the home office for more than 300 Mustang clubs around the world. On top of that, he’s a journalist and author with over 25 years of experience as well as a historian on the world’s beloved pony car. Being a fantastic storyteller, Clor spent hours answering questions on camera for Gilkey’s documentary.
"It was quite a change as we entered the sixties and young people started to influence purchase decisions; they didn’t want grandpa’s big old car,” said Clor. “Young people were looking for something that was the polar opposite to what was on the highways, they wanted to distance themselves from the establishment."
Ford engineers and designers took that and ran with it. It integrated style, performance, and price into one affordable and aesthetically-pleasing Mustang package. On Mad Men, Don Draper is much like that, going his own direction, redefining himself as well as the advertising industry in the 1960s.
As I’m sure you know, the Mustang was offered in coupe, fastback or convertible and with the option of a six-cylinder or V-8 engine, manual or automatic transmission. It was also offered in many different colors and trim details. Come 1965 and the Shelby GT350 brought performance Stangs to a whole new level.
What also appealed to young drivers, it was hard to find two Mustangs that were exactly the same since Ford offered so many options. With the many customization options and aftermarket parts companies, some of this applies to Mustangs today. Nowadays you can go online to the Mustang customizer and build your very own virtual custom Stang and share it with your friends.
Mad Men first debuted in 2007 and Don Draper’s advertising style appealed to emotion and really delivered what people were looking for. The Mustang brings that same genuine passion to the table that few other cars have ever been able to express.