What do you call the product placement of a hulking, noisy old-time copy machine that no one can even buy anymore?
Smart marketing -- if you're Xerox and the show is the set-in-the-'60s fan favorite "Mad Men."
The producers of "Mad Men" actually first approached Xerox with a script idea to use the Xerox 914, which was the first plain-paper copier ever. The show wanted to use the machine in its season two premiere, but it was last produced in 1976. Xerox's archivist discovered a working unit at Riverside Community College, the alma mater of Chester Carlson, the inventor of xerography (the actual process of copying that Xerox is named for).
So Xerox gave the producers the shell of a 914, and they got the machine's operating sounds by sending a crew to Riverside to tape audio from the working unit.
"What was so interesting is that they were so true to every quality of the 914," said Christa Carone, Xerox's VP-marketing and communications. "We set them up with retirees who were selling and servicing the 914. They talked to them about things like what the service technicians wore, where the machine was placed in the office."
The premiere show featured the arrival of the Xerox 914, and while it's true the product can't be purchased anymore -- and that Xerox sells very few stand-alone copiers today -- the appearance in "Mad Men" did reinforce the brand.
"The reality is that the company is far beyond that legacy," Ms. Carone said. "From a brand identification point, it made sense because it was appropriate in the '60s. And what it helped to do with the brand is just reiterate the rich legacy of Xerox as an innovator."
The Xerox's ongoing appearance on the show has sparked plenty of phone calls from show fans and customers, Ms. Carone said. The Xerox even appears along with Joan the office manager in a set of popular online wallpaper illustrations created by graphic designer and illustration blog nobodyssweetheart.com. -- Beth Snyder Bulik