AMC has every reason to be protective of its hit show Mad Men, but it came close to smothering a free and innovative way to market the show today, saved only by its own interactive ad agency, Deep Focus. Mad Men has established the network as delivering HBO-worthy dramas, and the show itself is a highly entertaining and well-shaded character study in the world of early 60s advertising. The show is so good, in fact, that anonymous fans took it upon themselves to start up and maintain Twitter accounts for the various characters. Show centerpiece and cooly charamastic junior partner Don Draper has been Twittering, as has office bombshell Joan Holloway and budding copywriter Peggy Olson, along with a host of other characters both major and minor.
Normally, this would seem like exactly the type of viral marketing put out by AMC, but in this case it can be safely assumed AMC isn't behind it. Why? Because the network sent Twitter a DMCA request to shut the accounts down, according to Venture Beat. It took, according to Silicon Alley Insider, some "gentle prodding" by AMC's Web advertising agency Deep Focus to allow the Twitter sites to remain active. After all, if fans are crazed enough to microblog about the characters for the show, then why not let them? As of yet, none of the people involved have used the Twitter accounts in anyway that AMC could interpret as harmful to their property.
Which isn't to say that the takeaway is that every time a random person on the Internet starts appropriating a company's brand, the company should let them. As Alan Wolk over at The Toadstool points out, many brands would have much to lose by letting someone off the reservation take on any role as their spokesperson, as Exxon found out when someone created a fake Twitter profile as an Exxon spokesperson.
What exactly constitutes marketing is in flux, and this episode shows how some companies are struggling (and why it's great to have a good agency on your side).