Mad Men has, in general, gone to great lengths to stay historically accurate within the context of the show. Music, lampshades, timing of important events, etc. The characters on the show seem to be a thin layer of fiction laid over the otherwise real 1960s and 1970s. One of the consequences of that is that it opens the door for hypotheticals ranging from fun to silly/stupid about what impact they might have had on real world events. And that brings us to last night.
During the meeting with McCann about SC&P getting swallowed up, while listing off big fancy accounts they’d be working on, McCann head honcho Jim Hobart nodded at Don when he said Coca-Cola. The real McCann Erickson did in fact have Coca-Cola as a client, and in 1970 — where we are now in the Mad Men timeline — they created the famous “It’s the Real Thing” campaign. The next year, as part of the same campaign, they made the iconic commercial above, titled “Hilltop,” which featured young people of a number of races and nationalities singing a song titled “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony).”
From AdAge, which has background on the spot’s creation:
In January 1971, McCann Creative Director Bill Backer was on a flight to London that was delayed in Ireland overnight. The next morning, Mr. Backer observed the beleaguered passengers at an airport coffee shop laughing over bottles of Coke. “[I] began to see the familiar words, “Let’s have a Coke,” as … actually a subtle way of saying, “Let’s keep each other company for a little while,” wrote Mr. Backer in his book, “The Care and Feeding of Ideas.”
Now, there’s some time left on Mad Men, so the possibility exists that Don could walk away from McCann before the “Hilltop” ad comes about (or get fired for drunkenly berating a computer technician, or jump out a window, or get stabbed in an alley by the jealous lover of whichever waitress happens to remind him of a past flame that particular week), but assuming he sticks around, does… does that mean Don created “Hilltop?” Or helped create it? Because that’s kind of hilarious.
Like, picture Peggy walking into his office and pitching this hippie-dippie love-fest to him. Picture her telling him that their first big push for the biggest soft drink in the world is people standing on a hill and singing about holding hands and so on. Picture that meeting. Picture his face.
Like I said, hilarious.