Speculating about Mad Men is some nasty business – quite literally, as most theories regarding Matt Weiner’s beloved AMC drama series are all about ending the lives of beloved characters in increasingly gruesome ways, from predicting that Don Draper will leap off a high rise to his death to this season’s theory that Megan Draper is going to die in one of many terrible ways, from Manson family murder to plane crash – but the series’ continued interest in rooting its plotlines in reality means that such wild wondering isn’t without merit.
Anything could happen, at least, anything could happen that at least sort of happened in our actual past. Of course, that doesn’t mean that anything big is going to happen on the show – as completely nuts as it would be to see Megan offed by the Mansion family, Weiner’s show has never so fully injected his fake characters into real history, and it is highly unlikely that particular storyline would ever play out – but plenty will continue to happen (such is the nature of life, episodic television, and history). Sure, we’re not likely to see any of the Mad Men team splashed across the front page of newspapers around the country, but we are likely to feel the fallout of what happens to various company accounts in a more personal way (life, you guys), because if there’s one thing we do know about the show, it’s that professional success sure makes the personal pains go down a bit easier.
But just how professionally successful are things going to stay for the firm? Let’s look back at, yup, actual history.
When we last left the denizens of SC&P, it was the summer of 1969, and a few things were on the cusp of getting shaken up pretty spectacularly. While Jim Cutler and Lou Avery have recently been busting their chops to woo Philip Morris back into the fold by pitching their Commander brand, another SC&P hallmark brand (GM) is busy making their own plans for the firm. Like, well, totally dumping them and stealing Bob Benson away, all while dangling a big carrot called “Buick” in front of his starry eyes (and, eventually, in front of Joan).
But what is actually going to happen with Chevy and Buick and Commander and, hell, even Burger Chef and Avon? We might not know exactly how this stuff will play out in the Mad Men world, but we can sure take some clues from the real world.
The Chevy XP
As the team over at Jalopnik reminded us last year, as cool as the Chevy XP-887 sounds on paper – basically, it’s just like a single piece of paper with the word “CHEVY!!!” written on it, clutched in Pete Campbell’s hot little hand – the car ended up being a bust. Wait, you’re not familiar with the XP? It’s okay, you probably know it by another name. The Vega. That’s right, the team at SC&P are currently unraveling at the seams because they’ve just lost the Vega, one of American industry’s biggest car busts of all time. Losing that account doesn’t seem to bad right now, does it? Point – SC&P.
But if SC&P really is about to lose the Vega (giggle) and that veiled Buick promise comes true, what does that all mean? The early seventies were in interesting time over at the GM product, with the Buick line rolling out new cars like the Estate, the Apollo, and the Skyhawk. Oh, and also, the Regal and the Park Avenue, a pair of vehicles you’ve probably heard of and a duo that helped push the Buick into luxury territory. Were those a success, you may wonder? Considering that 1977 and 1978 boasted the best sales years of the company since its creation, if SC&P can really land the account and hold on to it for awhile, they just might be in the money. Point – SC&P.
Nope, Burger Chef isn’t still around (the last named restaurant closed in 1996), but they were big business back in the sixties and seventies. If Peggy and company can keep them around, there’s something big on the horizon — the Funmeal, which is exactly what it sounds like, a fun meal that was also kind of the original Happy Meal (sorry, McDonald’s). Can you imagine Peggy and Don pitching ads for the kid-friendly fare, having to include characters like Burger Chef, sidekick Jeff, the magician Burgerini, vampire Count Fangburger, talking ape Burgerilla and Cackleburger the witch? We just want to see Don say “Burgerilla.” Still, Burger Chef was successful through the seventies, and could be the kind of trademark account to keep SC&P afloat. And staying in the good graces of parent company General Foods sure can’t hurt. (Um, let’s also maybe forget about the Burger Chef murders, though, okay?) Point – SC&P, at least for a bit.
Joan’s baby, Avon, is still around. No, really still around — they made $10b back in 2012. While we don’t think SC&P is still around now (in a general, totally imagined sense), if they were and they still had Avon, things would be pretty sweet. It’s a winner. Point – SC&P.
The Commander still exists (look — it’s even on the Philip Morris website, how weird is that?), but what’s most essential about getting into bed with Philip Morris is that, in 1970, they’re going to buy the Miller Brewing Company. Beer and cigarettes? Live it up, SC&P! But not so fast, because you know what also happens in 1970? The Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act, which called for more intense warnings on packaging and killed all cigarette ads on radio and television. Point – well, hard to tell right now.