Yes, Mad Men's Don Draper Created the "I'd Like to Give the World a Coke" Ad [Updated with grim reminder of M*A*S*H's terrible finale]


If you watched the series finale of Mad Men last night and were wondering just which character came up with the famous Coke commercial that runs at the end of the show, here's a strong case that it was Don, channeling some of the feelings and hippie vibe from the encounter group he joined:

I enjoyed the finale (and the whole series, for reasons sketched here). The Daily Beast's Marlow Stern was disappointed:

And then we see Don meditating with a group of hippies by the water. Ommmmm.Ommmmm. He cracks a smile. The action abruptly cuts to the 1971 "Buy the World a Coke" commercial depicting a group of multicultural teens singing the tune "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)" on top of a hill in Manziana, Italy. Commissioned by McCann-Erickson, it came with a price tag of $250,000, making it the most expensive commercial to date, and became wildly popular. 

So it truly is the end of an era. Weiner has shut the door on the "good ol' days" of the '60s and provided a gateway to the decades of social and political upheaval and multiculturalism that will follow. Don has transformed from a closed-minded "Master of the Universe" to one of the enlightened ones and, inspired by his retreat (ding), has returned to McCann to create one of the most celebrated ads ever. Yes, everything, even our personal moments of clarity, can be co-opted by industry and turned for profit.

Worth reading.

One thing I think Stern misses in his reading is that the whole show is predicated upon the denial of a sharp distinction between integrity and art, that there is even such a thing as "selling out" when it comes to creative expression. That's why the show was set in an ad agency and why all of the creative characters quickly abandon the pursuit of literary fiction or fine art (when they evince them at all). Some clients are better than others and consumers are always fickle. But among the many fault lines in the show, the art/commerce distinction simply doesn't exist. Which is one of the reasons Mad Men was refreshing. Like the Pop Art era that it partly chronicles, one of its most interesting ideas is precisely the notion that art and creative expression can somehow be de-linked from commercial pressures and expectations is bullshit cooked up in the Romantic era, mostly by artists with trust funds or deep-pocketed patrons. Rather, art and commerce are inextricably linked, especially in popular forms that seek an audience in a marketplace.

More on that Coke ad/song.

What series finales were great (Breaking Bad) and which sucked (Seinfeld)? Answer in the comments and, as always, BE NICE.


Updated: Several commenters mentioned the series finale to M*A*S*H, which indeed does take the cake as the Worst. Final. Episode. Ever. Or at least, let's hope. Along time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I wrote about M*A*S*H's decline for A snippet:

Watching M*A*S*H reruns in sequence is like watching a friend die a slow and painful death….The later episodes are so ham-handed and rotten, in fact, that it makes you hate the early shows for being the petri dish from which this virus grew. When it came time for the flatulent, pretentious two-hour finale, what viewer wasn't rooting for the North Koreans to overrun the camp and torture, mutilate, and kill everyone associated with the good old 4077?

Read "Rerunning on Empty" here.