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The Big Business of “Mad Men”

Friday, 15 Oct 2010 | 10:23 AM ET
Source: amctv.com

Mad Men's season finaleis coming up on Sunday, which means it's time to take stock of its wide-reaching impact.

The show has a relatively small audience — 2.2 million viewers last Sunday — but that audience is educated and influential, which helps explain the cultural weight of cable channel AMC.

(In contrast Last Sunday 2.6 million tuned in to HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" and 4.7 million to MLB Division Playoffs.)

The show's critical acclaim and slew of awards has bolstered Lionsgate, which produces the show and cast a golden glow on Rainbow Media's AMC (parent is Cablevision ).

Then there are the slew of product tie-ins.

Source: brooksbrothers.com

Brooks Brothers sells a "Mad Men Edition" line of suits.

Banana Republic hosted a "casting call" competition this summer and featured fashions inspired by the show.

"Mad Men" costume designer Janie Bryant has a collection inspired by the show on QVC (owned by Liberty Media )

Mattel even has a line of Mad Men Barbies(Joan Holloway costs $75)

Perhaps most interesting, the show has taken product placement to the next level and has figured out how to keep viewers from skipping ads.

The ads are shot in the very same style as the show, with actors who look an awful lot like Mad Men's stars. The ads are so sneaky, consumers can't help but stop for what appears like the return of the show. Plus, brands like Dove were made the stars of various episodes — the fictional ad agency worked to create effective messages for them. This is the ultimate brand integration.

Source: amctv.com

And it works: a survey from a firm called iTVX, which measures TV ad effectiveness found 7 percent growth in "brand attitude" and a 4 percent increase in "purchase intent."

That's about double the typical 'purchase intent' of ads.

These numbers are so remarkable because the products are truly integrated, and not at all jarring. It makes sense to have the characters work on Unliver's 'Ponds' cream — creator Matthew Weiner wouldn't touch a product that launched after the show's time period-it would stick out like a sore thumb.

There aren't many shows that so nicely lend themselves to this kind of partnership, but when these opportunities arise, the impact is meaningful.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.