SXSW – Behind the scenes with Mad Men on Twitter

How did characters from a show based in the analog 1960s fast forward to become a sensation on Twitter? Tweeters behind the profiles of Peggy Olson, Betty Draper and Roger Sterling discuss how it happened, why it happened and–most importantly– what does it mean for the future of entertainment branding?

Helen Klein Ross Partner, Supporting Characters
Michael Bissell Pres, Conquent
Carri Bugbee Pres, Big Deal Productions

  • CB:Madmen on Twitter came out serendipitously. I saw a tweet about don Draper on twitter.I loved it never thought it was official, but wanted to join in. So I registered Peggy Olsen, thought it was fun, thought I would do it over the next few weeks. Over the next few hours got about 160 followers, people were getting into it. I thought it would be interesting, a case study, so I treated it as a job, to the extent that it was possible, I deleted the snarky tweets and went to get inside the character. On the same day there were more people involved, over the next few days most Mad Men were on Twitter and it garnered a huge following and lots of pieces about it.  A lot about whether it was by AMC or not. At that point I kept quiet about it was me – I got a kick out of the speculation and writing.   Later, there were issues with getting into Twitter – they had suspended the account.  I had really got into Peggy and was loving it, but the minute they took the character away I was wringing my hands. Got an indecipherable email from Twitter about copyright (so I then emailed my lawyer, just in case). Watched the stream and lots were annoyed about it, it got reported, eg Silicon Valley Insider, who reported from Twitter there was a DMCA takedown notice.  All I could think about that night was oh crap a network was going to sue me. The following morning, lots were writing about how AMC had failed, how it was wrong to do a take down.  A day later, the journalists were contacting other characters.  We did not tell anyone, we kept it quiet. Later they let us go back up…reportedly on the advice of the digital agency.  Lessons:  Brands/Shows reserve your screen names.  Lessons: you may not be able to achieve it.  Lesson: if in middle of PR problem, don’t bury your head.  Give them something, speculation is not good.  Lesson: use your fans to your advantage.  this has not really been absorbed by people who create content.    Once we were back in action it was the long slog of building followers.  It was just word of mouth.  You should use Twitter to follow your brand, to see what people are saying.  You can get real-time feedback about the show and characters.
  • HR: I’m Betty Draper.  I started by being followed by Betty and Don. I thought this was another brilliant promotion by AMC. I had already seen them seed subway cars with business cards and they had wrapped a car in promotion.  I blogged about it about how brilliant AMC was and I was shocked when they were taken down. When they came back up, I went to see what was avalable…no idea why. Just thought it was a brilliant idea, a new kind of marketing. I picked up Francine (betty’s friend) and a few others. I saw it as a form of fiction.  To generate spontaneous fiction.   I could create mini-dramas across my characters to entertain followers.  We made characters live between episodes and seasons.  We enabled Mad Men fans to interact with the characters.   All of us have strived to remain parallel to Matt Weiner’s universe.  I have a whole 1960’s library know, had to do a lot research.  We’re only half of this..the other half are tweets from fans.  Our Mad Men on twitter would not be exciting if it was just us.   I come from advertising … have tried to think about what does this mean for entertainment marketing.  How we think about and consume entertainment has changed. We can expect to have some active participation in it. The old contracts were a very passive model…media heads put a lot of focus on impressions when deciding on which show to advertise on. They are looking now at expressions now, how many are willing to engage with show.  To get 80% reach you used to be able to buy a spot on 3 networks, now it’s 100 networks.  Advertisers have to stop siloing it.  Consumers are changing. Neilson has a convergence channel..combining internet and TV. We think that Mad Men on Twitter is something different. We’re not just fans, we’re professionals. We are transforming fan fiction into a new form of marketing – it’s not fan fiction, its brand fiction
  • MB: I’m Roger Sterling. When first contacted, i thought it was silly, but I went to look for Don Draper, but ended up with Sterling.  It was perfect for me..the tweets about the hangovers etc were not just fiction!  The research, definitely needed.  The Long Island Iced Tea was not invented until the 70s..I did not know this but the fans did. I changed it. Twitter is very transitory, it’s gone. Twitter is very Buddhist, it’s in the now.   But for tracking, it’s very Stalinist..you have to regular on a schedule grab all the data.  There’s the peekaboo followers, who follow and unfollow. You don’t catch these in regular stats.  So the people who say they have this figured out are assuming that world will not change again. We started in Aug, when the most followed had 40k followers. There’s an article today about Twitter has peaked. You have to watch and track and know the universe is changing.   The outside stuff was interesting, how people perceived the characters.  The WSJ which came out a few months ago gave very little in traffic or views…
  • Q: does it make sense for an agency/professionals to do this?
  • CB: if I was the agency or client, i would absolutely want to own it.  There is so much more you could do..but we can’t do as we are not sanctioned.
  • MB: Look at Star Trek…Paramount has had pseudo fanfiction that they have managed, to let fan world grow but push it in the direction the want to go
  • Q: Are you getting work out of this?
  • MB: can;t confirm or deny.
  • HR: but we could do it for you or teach you to do it.  We hope to teach others to do this
  • Q: Did it feel like work?
  • MB: we saw that. there were characters that showed up, but no longer there. It is so time consuming.

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