Mad Men Creator: Finale Coke Ad Came From Don's 'Enlightened State'

Mad Men Finale Matthew Weiner Interview

For those of you who need to hear it straight from Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner‘s mouth: Don (and not Peggy) wrote the Coke ad.

“The idea that some enlightened state, and not just co-option, might’ve created something that is very pure” was an attractive way to end the series, Weiner said. “To me, it’s the best ad ever made, and it comes from a very good place.”

The assertion was one of the highlights of a public conversation Weiner had with A.M. Holmes (The L Word) at the New York Public Library on Wednesday evening, four days after his AMC series’ final episode aired.

RELATED Mad Men Series Finale Recap: ‘There Are a Lot of Better Places Than Here’

Weiner conducted no interviews after Sunday’s episode, so the conversation was the first time fans had an opportunity to hear Weiner’s thoughts on the finale.

“I’m so pleased that people enjoyed it and seemed to enjoy it exactly as it was intended,” he said, adding that the episode had been locked down since October.

During the conversation, Weiner shared some of his influences (such as President Richard Nixon and Catholicism) and recent insights about the show’s final hour.

“Don likes strangers. Don likes winning strangers over,” Weiner said. “He likes seducing strangers, and that is what advertising is.”

However, “Once you get to know him, he doesn’t like you,” he said. “I think that’s why he married Megan over Faye.”

RELATED Mad Men‘s Jay R. Ferguson Talks Stan and Peggy’s ‘Perfect’ Ending and Nearly Blowing the Finale’s Biggest Surprise

Weiner also addressed criticism (like some levied by TVLine) that Don spent too much time away from his New York colleagues in the final few episodes.

“I thought, ‘I want to see Don on his own. I want to see Don out there. I want to do an episode of The Fugitive,'” he said of the series’ penultimate hour, adding that he brought Draper to the Esalin retreat center in the finale because “I liked the idea that he would come to this place and it would be about other people.”

Other insights from the talk:

* If Weiner ever creates a show for a streaming video service like Netflix, “I would try to convince them to let me just roll them out so there’s some shared experience,” he said. “There’s not much left that we have communal now.”

* When Joan got pregnant with Roger’s baby, “I [originally] thought Joan was gonna go through with that abortion,” he said, but conversations in the writers’ room eventually changed his mind. He also said he never conceived Joan as a single mom feminist, but loved that “This woman made a practical decision not to take any s—t anymore.”

RELATED Ratings: Mad Men Ends on High Notes

* Weiner originally meant to wrap Pete and Betty’s stories in the final episode, but Mad Men co-executive producer Semi Chellas argued that that would be too much in one sitting. “She was totally right,” he said.

* Don’s finale attire was a look that Mad Men costume designer Janie Bryant had been holding for a while. “Don Draper in jeans… we’ve never seen that,” Weiner said. “He is definitely out of uniform.”

* The only unscripted line that ever made it into the episode, Weiner said, was Don saying, “Sweetheart,” to one of the ladies to get the lights during an ad pitch in an early episode.

* Though Weiner had known for seasons that the end of the series would feature the Coke ad and Betty’s cancer diagnosis, the same can’t be said of one other huge, fan-satisfying development. “I didn’t know Peggy and Stan would end up together,” he said. “That had to be proved to me.”

Watch Weiner’s talk in full below.

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  1. MrMank says:

    Of course Don wrote it. How obvious does a show need to be?

    • GuessWhat says:

      right…it was such a leap to think Peggy did it! it was just that some WANTED her to be the one. I am glad it was Don.

      • Weezy says:

        Exactly. When I found out people were saying Peggy wrote it, I just kind of sighed. I don’t understand what’s wrong with people these days. It’s like everyone’s perception has been distorted so that reality doesn’t even matter anymore. All that matters is what you want something to be. Evaluating things based on emotional bias rather than common sense/rational analysis is a very dangerous thing.

    • Gailer says:

      Thank God! It came from the horse’s mouth

  2. Mark says:

    I thought that Don’s ending was about him finding contentment in a life away from New York and away from advertising. Connecting with people for real, instead of faking it. I thought his smile was peace, not “This would make a great ad.”

    I still prefer my version.

    • Bruce Padgett says:

      But it was because of that connection he came up the ad of the century. I think the Don of the future would stay in advertising, but would finally find satisfaction in his career, as well as his personal life.

      • amy says:

        Exactly. I don’t understand why making the ad would mean that he didn’t learn anything. Advertising to Don was always about self expression, not commerce. It was his art form.

        • Jules says:

          And there was so much in this episode about the work being worthwhile because you were good at it or enjoyed it, like Stan convincing Peggy to stay at McCann and work with him, like Joan picking her producer job over marrying Richard, like Pete going to Wichita. “If it’s right for you, it’s a good choice” seemed to on everyone’s lips. We already know Don is good at advertising. He is doing what he loves and finding value in what he’s good at. Nothing wrong with that!

    • Andy says:

      I don’t think he was really faking it at all. Advertising was always the one thing he knew he was good at and he loved doing it, so it’s not really a surprise that he didn’t give it up. But he was also paralyzed with every single negative feeling a person can experience and was probably trying to build the strength to get up and find a way to kill himself after he got off the phone with Peggy. The woman helping him up and bringing him to the therapy session along with hearing Leonard’s story was what opened him up and made him decide to take the whole retreat thing seriously. He did connect with those people and he did find a genuine sense of peace and content, but that would never have changed the fact that advertising is his passion. It inspired him personally and creatively.

    • Gailer says:

      Sorry, I Can’t agree, I wanted Don to be Don in the end

    • Viv says:

      I’ll keep my ending, thanks. I just wanted him to find contentment within himself. I thought the Coke ad was an homage to all of us about capitalism and corny earnestness in the American dream.

      Who the hell wants to know that Mona Lisa is really thinking about her ravioli recipe?!

      It kinda ruins it for me. Booooo!!!

    • Mark S says:

      He’s an ad man. That’s not a bad thing you know. I don’t understand why Don being an Ad man is something to be scorned. Is it more noble to be a hippy out in nature living in a commune? When did that become the American way?

  3. Bruce Padgett says:

    Don, Roger, Pete, Peggy and Joan all ride into the sunset with happy endings. Who would have guessed? As a Mad Men devotee who came to really love these characters, I still can’t get the smile off my face. And the great thing is that it all makes artistic sense.

    It felt right. And I don’t even drink Coke.

    • demoniam says:

      Me too, I’m still smiling. The first two seasons were really good, but were so depressing I was tempted to give up. I’m so glad I stuck with it, I love these characters, too. Flawed people doing the best they can. I feel like my own life is up in the air right now, so this finale was perfect. I’m so happy to say goodbye to these characters knowing that they’re going to be happy and okay (except poor Betty). Makes me feel like things will be ok in my stressed-out life, too. Thank you, Matthew Weiner, for Don smiling at the end.

    • Gailer says:

      Yes, how nice we got some happiness in the end

  4. DanielleZ says:

    Thanks for this. I loved the finale and the ending was perfect. An unexpected but nice surprise. I’m looking forward to Matthew Weiner’s next project. Hope it is soon.

  5. Jammy says:

    BULLCRAP. Bill Backer wrote the jingle, Don Draper lived out the rest of his life on that commune, until wandering off in a fugue state in 1993, and being struck by a car.

    • JohnS. says:

      It’s fiction. Don wrote the ad….it is a tv show.

    • cp1945 says:

      Do you know the show is fiction?

    • IMHO says:

      Thanks !
      I like MM but how about the guy who REALLY wrote the Coke Add.
      Not even an acknowledgement or a shout out for HIS phenomenal work.
      It was a nice way to end Don’s story but the Coke Add was one of the most memorable adds of all time and the guy who actually came up with it should get some recognition for it.
      According to Coca-Cola’s website:
      The “Hilltop” ad, also known by the song “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke,” was the brainchild of Bill Backer, creative director on the Coca-Cola account for McCann Erickson
      As for the idea of putting a group of 500 young people from around the world on a hill in Italy to sing the tune in unison, that came from art director Harvey Gabor. The filming had a $250,000 budget, more than quadruple what a typical ad cost to make back then, according to Coca Cola.
      And yes I realize Mad Men is a fictional TV show but the Coke Add was not fictional it was part of history.

  6. Randy says:

    This series started out so well but started going downhill in the last season.There was no continuity with the characters, the show didn’t even make sense anymore. There were too many loose end left. It could have been so much more.

  7. Interesting because it says “watch Weiner’s talk in full below” yet some of the quotes in the article are not in the talk…? I just sat through the whole darned thing and he didn’t say that Don created the Coke commercial. Neither did I hear the part about him winning strangers over or picking Megan over Faye. Hmm… Sorry, but it was only IMPLIED in the show that Don created the commercial (that’s the ambiguity he mentions at the end of the talk). I watched the episode and did not get that impression at all. I first considered it when I heard it online. Adding to the idea was the guy talking about sitting on the shelf in the refrigerator. I missed the “refrigerator” part originally (outside noise possibly?) so that probably helped set up the idea…

  8. Nero tTVf says:

    Wonderful interview and nice to know early on (just four days later) what Matt W. was thinking about regarding the finale. I really liked the finale, and Matt W and the team just nailed it – did a great job.

    One key point however, and if I could interview MW, I’d ask him about this: Betty. I still wonder what Matt’s feelings about Betty really are, and was there someone in his life/past that perhaps was the motivation for writing the Betty character in the way he did. I know MW said early on that originally (in the pilot), he did not envision her as an ongoing character. But of all the characters in Mad Men, Betty often got the most harsh treatment, and her ending was far different than all the others. Not sure why MW went this route.

    Even that very last scene, where Betty is smoking her cigarette at the kitchen table. Yes, she is doing it on her terms (having those cigarettes until her dying day), but that final scene could have simply shown Betty drying the dishes as Sally washed them, just something more ‘uplifting’, as we saw in the Pete-Trudy, Roger-Marie final clip. In fact, I thought that the final scene of Betty in the prior episode (Milk and Honey Route), where Betty is ascending the stairs at her college, I thought that was the perfect last shot of Betty. But MW went a different route.

    I do wonder what MW was thinking regarding Betty’s end.

  9. Alan Pergament says:

    I watched Weiner’s conversation, which was streamed. He never actually said Don wrote the ad. Yes, he said it came from an “enlightened state” but there was no followup to pinpoint it came from Don. I agree it sounded like Weiner’s intent but would have liked to hear it directly from him without someone putting words in his mouth. I also wish Weiner was asked why he would give Don credit for the ad — if he was doing that — when history shows that it was really written by Bill Backer.

  10. Ellinas78 says:

    Still a very unsatisfying finale.

  11. misery chick says:

    Don Draper/Dick Whitman/Jon Hamm in blue jeans…YAAAASSSSSS 🙌

  12. mkisliuk says:

    As a young kid at the time, I felt so ambivalent about that hilltop ad, confused that, while it sounded and looked so good and captured an undeniable, seductive, communal, hopeful (though not really mainstream) Zeitgeist we were feeling at the time, it was also an ad… for Coke. It left me cocking my head at my elders with a Sally Draper-like “hunh?” But one thing all the discussion about the Mad Men finale and this ad has left out is that the ad itself poached on a similar (radio?) Coke ad from several years earlier, which included the line (and melody) “it’s the real thing… what you’re hoping to find in the back of your mind”… this, which in my memory is melded with the hilltop tv version (because it runs as a countermelody in the hilltop ad, and taps our musical memory of the earlier one), is perhaps the most compelling and scary aspect of the ad… it WAS what we (hippie-oriented rebellious youth) were’ hoping to find in the back of our minds..’. peace, multicultural harmony and cooperation, yet Coke and other multinationals were not about those things, though they wanted us to associate Coke with those things…. The fact that Mad Men tapped into (and maybe thereby re-appropriated) that aesthetic and political ambivalence captured in that ad is one of the brilliant things about the Mad Men project. Maybe this is at the core of the character Don Draper: American existential schizophrenic artifice that resulted in a (doomed? hopefully not) effort to crawl out of emptiness within this advertising/art/ideology to pull out of the pile real relationships, concrete experiences (the sun, the wind on the hilltop), and acknowledgment of mortality (the real thing…).