Mad Men on Twitter, off Twitter, and on Twitter again.

August 27, 2008

Don Draper on Twitter

I was late to the game on the Mad Men phenomenon, though quickly eliminated my knowledge deficit by busting through all of Season 1 over the course of a liquor-and-cigarette fueled week (also thanks to Comcast OnDemand for having Season 1 available). Now heading into Season 2, I’m drawn in by both the familiarity of the working environment (the politics and inner workings of an agency, advertising or otherwise), and the soap opera relationships between the characters. Some of the pitch scenes are just brilliant, like this one for Kodak (but that’s a future post). Plus, Don Draper (the main character) is such the antihero… makes me almost want to wear a suit to work. Badass.

About a week or two ago, I somehow was directed to Don’s Twitter account: twitter.com/don_draper. How Don manages to use Twitter from the 1960s via a rotary phone or typewriter is beyond me, but technical challenges notwithstanding, his tweets have added a bit of extra depth to the show… randomly popping up over the course of the week between episodes, totally in character. And now there’s a whole slew of Mad Men besides Don on Twitter… Peggy Olson, Bobbie Barrett, Sal Romano, Betty Draper, Joan Holloway, and Roger Sterling to name a few.

Here’s the thing: none of the Twitter accounts were created by AMC, the channel that produces Mad Men. They were created by fans of the show, taking on these personas, and having conversations online based on the characters.

And as often is the case, if old media doesn’t understand it, they litigate. AMC requested Twitter remove all of the Mad Men accounts since they were not created or controlled by AMC. And go figure, the story got out… on Twitter. Fortunately someone at AMC’s web marketing agency suggested it might be a bad idea to shut down all these fan-created Twitter accounts. (Gee, you think?) So AMC allowed Twitter to restore all the accounts. Not the best day for AMC’s relationship with the online community.

What can you learn from this story? When your hard-core fans want to promote your show, let them. Embrace them. Enable them. Why in the world would you want to shut down the people who are loving your show so much that they voluntarily tweet as characters from the show? And not in a negative or out-of-character way, but caring so much about the show that they put their passion and enjoyment of the program into their tweets and responses.

Would it have been “better” if AMC had created these Twitter accounts instead of fans? I doubt it. There’s something to be said for the authentic, spontaneous creation of the accounts by fans, not by the corporation. Someone thought, “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if I was Don Draper?” and through the power and anonymity (certainly the sword cuts both ways) of technology, POOF!, this person became the 140-character embodiment of Don Draper. Others picked up the idea, created character accounts, and ran with it. Together, these people who may have no idea who each is in real life, are stitching together these fan-created conversations based on the show.

I can only imagine the run on Twitter accounts from every network to secure the names of every character from every show they’ve ever produced. Good luck with that. And all the film production houses, don’t forget about all the actors and movie characters. Oh, and authors and book publishers, you’d better grab all your literary characters as well. Same with you playwrights. Just to be safe, the phone companies might want to reserve all the names in the phone book. Just in case.

Seems when old media approaches their passionate audience with fear instead of embracing them, things probably won’t turn out so well. In the meantime, I’m only up to Episode 4 from Season 2 of Mad Men, so don’t tell me what happens next. I’ll just follow Don Draper’s tweets.

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