Mad Men, AMC’s award-winning television drama recently inhaled and sipped down a bit of the ski industry this last weekend. The show incorporates the classic and fictional ad campaigns of major brands into the plot as a way to invoke realism and nostalgia. A sort of “Hey! I remember that!” tip of the hat to better times. Americana drips from television sets like the syrupy sap of a maple during the hour-long, Sunday drama.
During the last episode, “Lady Lazarus”, I was overly enthused and surprised when Head Skis joined the ranks of Kodak, Lucky Strike, and Zou Bisou Bisou (OK, so that last one isn’t a company featured on the show but any excuse to watch that clip has to be taken). Head Skis had arrived at the offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Price.
Roger Sterling (a character you wish was your grandfather and are happy is not) calls Pete Campbell, the junior partner, into his office. He offers Pete two pairs of skis. In a classic gaper move, Pete cradles the skis and trips up. Producer Matthew Weiner is probably a huge Shane McConkey fan.
A clip of Head’s appearance is not available yet online but the episode is on iTunes. I caught up with Andrew Couperthwait, current product manager at Head Skis, to discuss skiing’s debut on the four-time Emmy Award winning show.
What model ski was sitting in Roger Sterling’s office?
I believe it’s The Standard. That ski was the kind of fifties-era ski that put Head on the map. Howard Head at that time had developed the first metal laminate construction and that ski, for Head, really redefined the high-end performance in skis. That was the best selling ski in the country for something like seven or eight years.
Did Matthew Weiner approach you about being included in the show?
We had no idea about it.
What’s the feedback been?
Our feelings toward it is any exposure is good exposure. One of the things we want to drive home to people is that we’re not a ski company of the past. We sometimes get pigeonholed that way. It’s great that we’re getting this exposure from Mad Men. We realize that it’s viewed by millions of people in the US on a weekly basis. We’re very excited about that but we want to change the notion that we’re your grandfather’s ski company.
In the episode, Roger Sterling indirectly refers to Head’s founder, Howard Head, as, “some schmo from Luthersville, Maryland.” If you could defend Howard to Roger, what would you say?
Well, you know, he did start the business and Howard was a quirky guy. Usually guys that are that bright are quirky. The guy was a genius. He revolutionized ski design in construction and tennis racket design with metal construction. Everything he did in regards to sport was in an attempt to make the sport easier and to expand the amount of people that could be involved in it.
Was he a quirky guy? Sure. Would I call him a “schmo”? Not so much.
If you had to put a ski on an ad agency couch today, what ski would it be?
For appealing to all skiers throughout the country and with the current lineup for 2012/2013, I’d put the Rev85 Pro on there. It’s a development of The Standard for the modern age. For Powder readers, the Rev105 or The Hammer.
Mad Men airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on AMC. Head Skis can be found at head.com. Managing Editor Mike Rogge is a huge television nerd.