Before we travel back in time, let's take a quick look at 2012. The world of advertising is undergoing one of the biggest transitions it's seen: Television is no longer the primary media outlet for getting a brand's message out there. As social media (and the Internet in general) grow in popularity, advertisers are struggling to be relevant.
But if last night's season premiere of Mad Men can teach us anything, it's that while the changes themselves might vary, dealing with cultural progress is something that's always challenged the advertising industry. And in the first episode of Mad Men's season five, the ever-changing nature of advertising is clear.
The first scene of season five takes place at Don's bright, new place of residence. (A stark contrast to his previously drab digs.) His daughter Sally wakes up, seemingly a bit disoriented. She can't find the bathroom, and accidentally opens the door to Don's bedroom in which his new wife Megan is sleeping, naked. We're expecting Don to be at least a little angry at Sally for not knocking, but a new, softer Mr. Draper simply asks her if she's hungry for breakfast.
Overall, the feeling is light and airy, and I can't decide whether it's due to Don's new, breezy lifestyle or the fact that it's Memorial Day weekend. Either way, there's a marked difference.
What stands out most about Don is his surprisingly low-level anxiety. With the exception of his harsh reaction to Megan throwing him a surprise party, he's mild-mannered and at points downright pleasant. He seems more concerned with keeping Megan happy than anything else. I can't tell if this is good or bad -- will his work suffer?
Also worth noting is the fact that Megan at one point alludes Don's real identity, Dick Whitman. Somewhere between the end of season four and the beginning of season five, Don's clearly filled her in on a few secrets. To me, this communicates the fact that Don's not going to make the same mistakes he did with Betty. He doesn't want another trophy wife; he wants someone with which he can be open, honest and truly happy.
It's 1966, and America is in the midst of an equal rights movement. Our first visit back to Madison Ave. shows African-Americans picketing for equal employment opportunities outside Y&R ad agency (which also happens to be Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (SCDP)'s rival). The staff at SCDP doesn't necessarily voice an opinion about the movement. Instead, Don puts out a "joke" ad, calling his firm an "equal opportunity employer" (in an attempt to make Y&R look bad). Little does he know that the joke will be misunderstood by many.
After having lost the all-important Lucky Strike account in season four, Roger (and everyone else) is unsure about his place at SCDP. At this point, Pete's bringing in most of the business, and Roger knows it. Roger's beginning to show up at Pete's meetings unexpectedly in an attempt to steal his clients.
But it's obvious that the clients Pete's brought in are keeping SCDP afloat, and Pete therefore demands a bigger office. He wants to switch with Roger, but he refuses. Eventually, Harry's bribed to switch with Pete instead.
In 2012, marketers are looking for a unique way to stand out to Internet users. In 1966, Peggy's working hard to modernize advertising with her project for Heinz baked beans. The basic idea here is the same: How can we keep up with the times without alienating those with traditional values?
Her idea for a "bean ballet" ad interests the Heinz reps, but they're not sold. Peggy invites Don in and hopes he'll save the day, but the guys from Heinz are looking for something more old-fashioned. Peggy wants to embrace change, but her clients aren't ready for it.
Peggy's battle with Heinz represents the episode's overall theme of struggling to come to terms with change. Transitions and developments happen, whether we're ready for them or not. Don's got a new family, blacks in America are finally demanding equality, and Roger's not as pivotal to SCDP's success as he once was.
How will the characters cope with change throughout season five, and will SCDP continue to evolve? I'm certainly eager to find out as Mad Men's long-awaited season five continues!