Decoding the ‘Mad Men’ poster

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Being that “Mad Men” is a show about advertising, it’s always been important that it have great advertising itself, and the promotional image for season six is no different — though it does break from the show’s previous style in a very striking way. For the image, “Mad Men” turned to 75-year-old illustrator Brian Sanders, who created a lush, period-appropriate image with two Don Drapers and plenty of suggestive imagery.

“I know people are looking for meaning and everything. There is a lot of meaning in it,” series creator Matt Weiner concedes. “It came from a dream. I had this dream — and it was not Don, it was me, but a lot of stuff is like that.” So what was that dream — and this season’s promo poster — about exactly? Never a fan of divulging specifics, Weiner at least offers that the focus is on “the anxiety that is created by — in all of these characters — wondering why they are the way they are,” he says. “Maybe you’re a fraud, maybe you’re facing all the bad things you’ve ever done in your life, but you are back in a place where you are the issue. So you have a choice about, like, can you change? And I feel like there’s that person that’s you that’s right behind you, and you know what they look like and inside you’re something else.”

Hoping for something more concrete, we went to series star Jon Hamm for some further illumination. “It’s a very rich image,” he says. “Matt was very involved in the choosing of this particular image and finding the artist he wanted. He wanted this specific style of art. It’s so different also from our normal stylistic kind of cues, which are very graphic and very sparse. This is chaotic and different and in may ways kind of suggests the world we’re moving into. Bright colors and crazy tones and a lot going on.”

Here are a few things Hamm thinks viewers should keep an eye on when examining the poster:

• “The central motif of it obviously is these two versions of this one man crossing. But which one are we supposed to be following?”

• “One of them is with somebody and one of them is not. I think that shouldn’t be lost on people.”

• “One of them has a briefcase in his hand, one of them doesn’t.”

• “There’s a one-way sign, there’s a stop sign, there’s a lot of things. Those aren’t mistakes.”


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