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Find serious business features behind ‘Mad Men’ mania

mad men

Photo by Flickr user Neff Conner

Looking for a break from heavy-duty jobs market, housing market and financial market stories?

How about a fun business feature about who’s benefitting from the ripple effect of Don Draper & Co. that starts this weekend?

After a 17-month break, the AMC original program “Mad Men” returns to living-room TV screens on Sunday (March 25) in a two-hour premier long awaited by fans and critics of the 1960s drama.  And from clothing lines to viewing parties to liquor trends, an analysis of who’s making money from show-related angles will make for a fun and colorful business feature.

Viewing parties are in the works from Manhatan to San Francisco; even etiquette stalwart EmilyPost.com is getting in on the act with cocktail and recipe suggestions  for hosting a TV soireee.   You can check with area party planners, restaurants, hotels, wine stores and other purveyors of fine food, ambience and drink about the prevalence of such parties in your area and what wares are moving best.  Check with antique shops and boutiques about sales of retro bar ware, and spinoff products like calendars that promote the show.

The booze-soaked atmosphere of “Mad Men” isn’t a bad peg for following up on this tidbit I’ve had stowed away for a month or so; the Distilled Spirits Council says in this (PDF) annual report that licquor sales rose 2.7 percent in 2011; many state-level reports concur.  A look at alcholic beverages sales and trends — from Sunday sales to taxes to bar/restaurant top cocktails — could make for an interesting feature with a subtext about local discretionary spending.

don draper

By Flickr user Bex Walton

On a lighter note, clothing is a big angle to the “Mad Men” mystique; Banana Republic is reprising its related collection and I’d bet sales of skinny ties and other Draper-esque styles are hot at many menswear outlets.  Ask hair stylists and barbers about any shift among patron demands for slicked-back ad-man cuts or bouffant 1960s updos.

Resale shops likely are enjoying demand for mod prints, mini dresses, sheath frocks and outsize costume jewelry, as are estate sale managers, eBayers and others who deal in used goods — even fabric stores may be catering to renewed demand for bold late 60s prints and patterns, or their counter-culture counterparts.  The business of retro chic may be more lucrative than you think.  The Daily Beast even has a column about the evolution of the brassiere.

Smoking is a big motif in the AMC drama; you might use that as a peg to check in with nearby smoke shops, cigar bars, electronic cigarette sellers and even marijuana dispensaries if you’re in a medical pot state; how do tobacco and other weed retailers fare as smoking is increasingly banished from daily life?   (This is a great angle for a workplace, retail or health care reporter who might otherwise not feel a tie to “Mad Men.”)

Finally, the advertising and marketing world is ripe for a survey relative to its famous fictional counterpart.   Here’s a recent AdAge.com take on the show’s relevance to the industry; you could do a local survey about past and present glory among creative firms, trends in ad spending, changing horizons (print vs. broadcast vs. web) and even a look at local ad agency greats who might rival Don Draper for industry fame.


In Beats, Economy, Featured, Media | Advertising, Retail | Lifestyle, Story ideas.

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