Picture this ad: A suited man falls through empty space, limbs and tie flailing. Directly below him reads the date “March 25” in red and black type. What does it all mean? To some, it’s obvious. Others, however, find it offensive.
Since the ad was spotted in New York City, it has drummed up the touchy subject of 9/11 and the taboo image of people hurling themselves from the top floors of the World Trade Center on that horrific day. But anyone who has seen AMC’s hit show Mad Men could have easily identified what the poster was for. The show’s opening credits are of that same man from the poster falling through empty space filled with ads from the 60s. And the fall is far from literal. (That is, unless it’s hinting at what’s to come this season.)
Part of the challenge of advertising lies in the fact that ads that are provocative and attention grabbing to many are also often considered offensive to others. Viewers of the Mad Men ad who haven’t seen the show are left to fill in the blanks on their own. Since the ad is so bare, are any misinterpretations simply the fault of the observer? Can the advertiser be at fault if some people relate the image to 9/11, even though the ad clearly contains the date March 25?
The Mad Men ad has undoubtedly been successful in that it has gotten people to talk. But certain people are offended, and accuse the ad’s creators of carelessness and insensitivity. Plenty of others think that it’s creative and will generate anticipation of the new season. Does the Mad Men poster go too far, or is it a great way to create some buzz for the show?