What Would Don Draper Do?
Today’s New York Times Advertising Column featured a company that has developed the technology to show television ads on small screens in supermarket aisles.
The 4th of July is still a few weeks away, but the dog days of summer have arrived early in 1962. The shirt sticks to the back of Don Draper as he hops on the 6:08 PM train home to Ossining. He’s already had a few Scotch’s in the office, but steps into the bar car and orders another double for the ride home. The windows are open but it is stifling inside. Will these trains ever be air-conditioned? The air is thick with smoke, blown around by couple of small fans that sadly struggle to create a breeze. Don finds a seat, downs his drink and smokes a cigarette. Before the train is out of the Grand Central tunnel, he falls asleep and dreams.
He vaguely recognizes his surroundings, but he is oddly out of place. People are not talking to each other, but starting at devices the size of transistor radios with little screens. Some seemingly talk to themselves while wearing strangely shaped earpieces with small flashing lights. His vision has him floating through restaurants, where he sees advertisements on menus and in the rest rooms. He passes through Yankee Stadium, where an impossibly large television screen planted just beyond the outfield shows television commercials between innings. In yet another Fellini-esque scene, he is walking among a crowd of men with shaved heads, all with temporary tattoos advertising a strange new razor with four blades instead of one.
Finally, he walks through the supermarket with his beautiful wife, Betty, where small television screens embedded in the shelves show endless commercials for the surrounding products.
Soon, Don finds himself surrounded by an infinite sea of housewives, all in identical sundresses. Robotically, they say “Thank you Mr. Draper for helping us cultivate a one-on-one store relationship with Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. Thank you Mr. Draper for helping us cultivate a one-on-one store relationship with Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. Thank you Mr. Draper for helping us cultivate a one-on-one store relationship with Kraft Macaroni & Cheese…”
Above it all, the giant heads of Roger Sterling, Bert Cooper, Pete Campbell, Lane Pryce and other advertising colleagues, past and present, all cackle with evil laughter.
He wakes up with a start. “Ossining, next station stop,” cries the conductor. “Just a bad dream,” Don thinks to himself.