July 24th, 2007

AMC's 'Men' Clicks With "Cross" Pens

By Gail Schiller
Hollywood Reporter

AMC is teaming with the A.T. Cross Co. for an integrated marketing partnership involving its new drama series “Mad Men,” while the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States said it has dismissed a complaint filed over another “Mad Men” marketing deal with Jack Daniel’s.

“Mad Men,” which premiered Thursday night, is AMC’s first original drama series and was created by Matthew Weiner, an Emmy winner for executive producing and writing “The Sopranos.” “Men” is set in New York in 1960 and revolves around the ruthlessly competitive men and women working on Madison Avenue.

The AMC partnership with A.T. Cross includes product integration and co-branded campaigns on-air, online and in more than 200 stores where Cross pens are sold. “This series offers a unique opportunity to showcase iconic brands like Cross in a compelling, entertainment environment,” AMC senior vp marketing Linda Schupack said. “The partnership with Cross provides AMC with the opportunity to build awareness for ‘Mad Men’ throughout their extensive network of stores.”

AMC previously announced another marketing partnership for the show with Jack Daniel’s, which prompted the consumer watchdog group Commercial Alert to file a complaint with DISCUS alleging that Jack Daniel’s’ sponsorship of the show violated DISCUS’ marketing code prohibiting alcohol marketing in association with depictions of irresponsible drinking, overt sexual activity or sexually lewd images.

DISCUS spokeswoman Lisa Hawkins said Monday that the code review board met to review the complaint and did not find any violations. “The board concluded that it is premature to evaluate whether a product placement is in violation with the code when it hasn’t even been filmed or aired yet,” she said. “Any such action would be speculative.”

She said at the time DISCUS received the complaint last month that the product placements had not even been filmed. “If someone has a concern once a product placement airs, they can file another complaint, and it will be evaluated by the code review board,” she noted. DISCUS is the hard-liquor industry’s trade association.

A spokesman for Brown-Forman, the parent company of Jack Daniel’s, said he expected the first episode featuring the brand to air in mid-August.

“We’re confident that we will not be found in violation of the code because we have approval rights on how Jack Daniel’s is used in the program,” spokesman Phil Lynch said. “Consequently, we’re not going to let Jack Daniel’s be used in a scene or content in which it violates the code.”

He said Brown-Forman had approved the mid-August placement of “a guy ordering Jack Daniel’s at a bar.” Two other placements the company has approved—though it is not yet certain that they will air—involve a shot of a bottle of Jack Daniel’s on a bar located in an ad executive’s office and a shot of a secretary handing her boss a bottle of Jack Daniel’s after she tells him somebody dropped it off for him as a gift, Lynch said.

In its complaint, Commercial Alert had called on DISCUS to recommend that Brown-Forman withdraw sponsorship of the show or to urge Brown-Forman to pay for counter advertisements by independent public health organizations that would air before, midway and following each “Mad Men” episode if it declined to recommend termination of the sponsorship arrangement. The complaint also called on DISCUS to adopt a prohibition on future branded entertainment initiatives from spirits brands.

AMC said that as part of its marketing deal with A.T. Cross, the company’s pens were used on-set and will be placed in episodes throughout the series. AMC also will feature the Cross pen in a customized “Mad Men” vignette and online at amctv.com in a photo gallery section that features art from the show. A poster featuring a character from the series using a Cross pen with the tagline, “Our classic signature pen ... A new signature series” will be displayed in more than 200 retail outlets nationwide where Cross pens are sold, AMC said.

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