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Spikes Asia 2015: Mad Men's Joan Holloway, in the flesh

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Singapore | In Media Publishing | September 11, 2015
As part of a pan-festival series of interviews called 'Icons in Action: Intimate Conversations with Creative Innovators', Gordon Bowen, founder of NY-headquartered ad agency mcgarrybowen, quizzed Christina Hendricks, actress who plays Joan Holloway, a key character in American TV show Mad Men.

A poll wasn't taken but odds are, most of those present for this particular session were familiar with, if not fans of, Mad Men, American TV show that is based on the advertising industry. The show is set in New York and gives viewers a peek into the lives of advertising executives back in the 1960s.

Christina Hendricks, who plays a character in the show called Joan Holloway, flew in to Singapore as a special guest at Spikes Asia. Gordon Bowen, founder, global chairman and chief creative officer of mcgarrybowen, a New York-headquartered advertising agency, that is part of the Dentsu Aegis Network, spoke to her about the show, her career and similarities between the creative professionals that put a show like Mad Men together and the creative folk that make ads for a living. He also asked her a few questions about every actress' parallel career - the brand endorsement front.

Mad Men actress Christina Hendricks and adman Gordon Bowen on the Spikes stage on Day Two

Christina started the session by talking about her very decision to be part of the show. "At the time, there were lots of 'hospital shows' and 'law shows' but not a single one that showed the world of advertising as the 'workplace'..." she recalls, saying her decision to be part of it was a gut-led one, much like the choices admen and women, especially those in the creative department, make on a daily basis.

Though Christina spoke about the show, her experience shooting for it and her preferred acting technique, Bowen kept trying to tie the discussion back to the world of advertising, in some way. For instance, when she spoke about how it helps her essay a scene better when the director tells her, in advance, what he'd like the audience to feel at the end of it, Bowen said, "In advertising too, we want the audience to feel a certain way. In fact, we want them to feel, think and do certain things, after seeing our ads...'

Christina Hendricks in a still from advertising based TV show Mad Men

After they went on to discuss the nuances of team work - both, on set and in an agency setting - Bowen, in keeping with the title of the session, asked Christina to define the word 'icon', to which she said, "'Icon' makes me think of a very strong image and about how that image makes me feel."

Responded Bowen, "Yes, in fact, when we speak about iconic brands, we realise that they're things we not just think about, but feel for.."

He then asked her to suggest ways in which advertising execs and their clients can get the best talent - he meant celebrity endorsers - to work for them. Christina answered, "It is important to find a natural match between the person and the brand. The person should be able to talk about the product in question in a natural way. If it (the testimony by the celebrity) looks forced, or rehearsed, people will not respond to it... they won't buy the product."

Christina Hendricks in an ad for Johnnie Walker

She endorses whiskey brand Johnnie Walker and insists it is a "natural fit" because she is a big whiskey/scotch enthusiast, and enjoys educating herself about the product, and how it's made.

"... Obviously, people know when someone is selling a product, but it should look natural," she said.

Bowen ended the conversation with the question "What did Mad Men teach you about advertising?"

She answered, "I took it (advertising) for granted earlier, but now I understand that advertising is all about emotions. It's about making people feel something. It's not just about gimmicks and catchy lines. It's also about the right imagery...'

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