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The unexpected Irish link in the Mad Men finale

An iconic moment at the end of Mad Men only came about because of Ireland’s bad weather.

***SPOILER ALERT! Seriously, if you haven’t watched the final episode of Mad Men yet, then this entire article contains spoilers. You have been warned***

IT’S ONE OF the most iconic advertisements ever made: the 1971 ‘I’d Like To Buy The World A Coke’ commercial.

Featured in the Mad Men finale which aired on this side of the Atlantic on Thursday night, the ad shows a group of young people singing about unity on a hilltop, holding bottles of Coke.

The ad is a key part of the final ever episode of the drama – and it only happened because of Ireland and bad weather.

The ad came into being because the creative director of Coke’s ad agency got stranded in the west of Ireland on a miserable Irish day.

Bill Backer, a real executive at agency McCann Erickson –  which featured in Mad Men as the company which bought and then subsumed Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce - was flying to London to make a Coke ad when heavy fog forced the plane to land at Shannon Airport.

With nothing to do except sit in the airport, Backer watched his fellow passengers:

Passengers had to remain near the airport in case the fog lifted. Some of them were furious about their accommodations. By the next day, Backer saw some of the most irate passengers in the airport cafe. Brought together by a common experience, many were now laughing and sharing stories over snacks and bottles of Coca-Cola.

It was that moment, he wrote – seeing people sitting over bottles of Coke in Co Clare in 1971 – that gave him the idea for what would become one of the world’s most famous and enduring TV commercials.

In that moment [I] saw a bottle of Coke in a whole new light… [I] began to see the familiar words, ‘Let’s have a Coke,’ as more than an invitation to pause for refreshment. They were actually a subtle way of saying, ‘Let’s keep each other company for a little while.’ And [I] knew they were being said all over the world as [I] sat there in Ireland.

Backer eventually made it to London, met with members of The New Seekers, and began to put the promo together. The rest is TV-commercial history.

In an interview in New York on Wednesday night, Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner said that he had known he was going to include the Coke ad in the finale by the end of season four.

“The people who find that ad corny are probably experiencing a lot of life that way and they’re missing out on something,” he said.

 Because five years before that, black people and white people couldn’t even be in an ad together, and the idea that some enlightened state and not just co-option might have created something that is very pure – and yeah, there’s soda in there with good feeling – but that ad, to me, it’s the best ad ever made. It comes from a very good place – the desire to sell Coca-Cola probably!
The ambiguous relationship we have with advertising is part of why I did the show – in the pilot, my main character is selling cigarettes and we cheer when he figures out a new way to sell them – he’s not Tony Soprano, he doesn’t kill people, but he kills people … Why not end the show with the greatest commercial ever made?

Source: CokeConversations/YouTube

Written by Michael Freeman and originally published on DailyEdge.ie 

DE Syndication

More: How a Galway accordion player ended up on Letterman with Tom Waits>

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