Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce faces the chop

It’s never easy starting an agency of course and Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, the fictional home of Mad Men, is facing the indignity of budget cuts, more advertising time and (yuk) product placement as producer Lionsgate tries to get the fifth series of the highly-esteemed (although not high rating) show on the road.

Mad Men costs a lot of money to make but broadcaster cable channel AMC has seen ad takings drop from about $2.7m a series to less than $2m, peanuts by US standards. Its costs, always substantial, have probably risen further as actors like Jon Hamm who plays charismatic creative director Don Draper have become stars.

Mad Men’s ad revenues are topped up substantially by sales of box sets and the like but the prognosis for the show isn’t good. Its reach in the UK will reduce too as the latest episodes are slated to be broadcast exclusively in Sky’s new Sky Atlantic channel.

It’s also arguable that since the four characters above exited big flash Madison Avenue behemoth Sterling Cooper to set up on their own (following its takeover by a villainous UK agency) the grittier tone of the drama has deterred some viewers. Don Draper in a tiny New York apartment as opposed to a Westchester mansion with Barbie Doll wife Betty doesn’t seem quite right.

So all this is alarming news. Will we ever find out the whole truth about Don?

And, anyway, what sort of product placement could you put in a show set in the 1960s?

Here’s writer and producer Matthew Weiner talking about his creation.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.