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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Madmen 6.4: McLuhan, Heinz, and Don's Imagination

So what does Marshall McLuhan have to do with tonight's episode 6.4 of Mad Men?  His "medium is the message" was mentioned back in the first season, and his influence has permeated just about every episode, as well it should, since Mad Men is about advertising in its sundry forms.  But tonight ...

Don, Pete, and Stan make their presentation to Heinz Ketchup.  It's a minimalist series of ads - pictures of fries, a burger, etc, and the phrase above says, "Pass the Heinz".  No mention of ketchup.  Don tells the client that the ads don't need it, and in fact are stronger without it, because the ketchup will be supplied in the viewer/reader's imagination.  What the mind supplies is more powerful than what it's shown.  A classic case of what McLuhan meant when he talked about "cool" media - presentations which were more effective by offering less, and giving the mind more invitation.  Poetry over prose, cartoons over paintings, Impressionism more involving than realistic art, and blurry black-and-white television more persuasive than the movies. See my Digital McLuhan for more.

The Heinz people, however, are not too cool, nor very receptive to the cool pitch.  They seem to enthusiastically go for Peggy's rival pitch featuring a big bright bottle of Heinz ketchup fully named.  In this round, the old-fashioned "hot" medium seems to win.  In the end, though, neither pitch wins - Heinz goes for J. Walter Thompson, a bigger firm, the incandescent, hottest firm of all.  But we don't see what their pitch is, and maybe that's the coolest pitch going.

Don's invocation of the power of imagination also spilled over into his personal life tonight.  He shows up on the TV set to watch Megan shoot a scene is which she's passionately kissed - nothing more, it's non-cable TV in the 1960s, after all - but still steamy, as the female show executive happily remarks.  Megan's understandably angry that Don showed up on this day - the first time he's ever come by - and Don defends himself by saying that was better than leaving what the shoot looked like to his "imagination".   A persuasive argument about the power of cool, again.

But Don himself is not too cool, as he heads back to the doc's wife for another roll in bed.   For Megan it's just a role, but for Don it's literally a roll, and he thinks it's perfectly fine for him to be angry about what he's imagining about Megan while she has no knowledge of what he's actually doing.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Harry finally steps up and asserts himself - he doesn't want his secretary fired, and furthermore demands a partnership, especially in view of how Joan got hers. That's not cool, either, but I agree with Harry on this one.

So, not a good night for McLuhan, except by cool implication, but that's the way it was for his theories - they were right, deep down, and still are, though just about everyone in the world denied them.

See also Mad Men 6.1-2: The Lighter and the Twist ... Mad Men 6.3: Good Company

See also Why "You Only Live Twice" for Mad Men Season 5 Finale ... Mad Men Season Five Finale

See also Mad Men Season 5 Debut: It's Don's Party  ... Mad Men 5.3: Heinz Is On My Side ... Mad Men 5.4: Volunteer, Dream, Trust ... Mad Men 5.5: Ben Hargrove ... Mad Men 5.6: LSD Orange ... Mad Men 5.7: People of High Degree ... Mad Men 5.8: Mad Man and Gilmore Girl ...Mad Men 5.9: Don's Creativity  ... Mad Men 5.10: "The Negron Complex" ... Mad Men 5.11: Prostitution and Power ... Mad Men 5.12: Exit Lane

And from Season 4: Mad Men 4.1: Chicken Kiev, Lethal Interview, Ham Fight ... 4.2: "Good Time, Bad Time?" "Yes." ... 4.3: Both Coasts ... 4.4: "The following program contains brief nudity ..." 4.5: Fake Out and Neurosis ... 4.6: Emmys, Clio, Blackout, Flashback  ... 4.7: 'No Credits on Commercials' ... 4.8: A Tale of Two Women ... 4.9: "Business of Sadists and Masochists" ...4.10: Grim Tidings ... 4.11: "Look at that Punim" ... 4.12: No Smoking!  ... Mad Men Season 4 Finale: Don and -

And from Season 3Mad Men Back for 3 and 3.2: Carvel, Penn Station, and Diet Soda and 3.3: Gibbon, Blackface, and Eliot and 3.4: Caned Seats and a Multiple Choice about Sal's Patio Furniture and 3.5: Admiral TV, MLK, and a Baby Boy and 3.6: A Saving John Deere and 3.7: Brutal Edges ... August Flights in 3.8 ... Unlucky Strikes and To the Moon Don in 3.9 ... 3.10: The Faintest Ink, The Strongest Television ... Don's Day of Reckoning in Mad Men 3.11 ... Mad Men 3.12: The End of the World in Mad Men ... Mad Men Season 3 Finale: The End of the World

And from Season Two: Mad Men Returns with a Xerox and a Call Girl ... 2.2: The Advertising Devil and the Deep Blue Sea ... 2.3 Double-Barreled Power ... 2.4: Betty and Don's Son ... 2.5: Best Montage Since Hitchcock ... 2.6: Jackie, Marilyn, and Liberty Valance ... 2.7: Double Dons... 2.8: Did Don Get What He Deserved? ... 2.9: Don and Roger ... 2.10: Between Ray Bradbury and Telstar ... 2.11: Welcome to the Hotel California ... 2.12 The Day the Earth Stood Still on Mad Men ... 2.13 Saving the Best for Last on Mad Men

And from Season One: Mad Men Debuts on AMC: Cigarette Companies and Nixon ... Mad Men 2: Smoke and Television ... Mad Men 3: Hot 1960 Kiss ... Mad Men 4 and 5: Double Mad Men ...Mad Men 6: The Medium is the Message! ... Mad Men 7: Revenge of the Mollusk ... Mad Men 8: Weed, Twist, Hobo ... Mad Man 9: Betty Grace Kelly ... Mad men 10: Life, Death, and Politics ...Mad Men 11: Heat! ... Mad Men 12: Admirable Don ... Mad 13: Double-Endings, Lascaux, and Holes


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