Have you ever finished watching your favorite TV show and felt like something was missing? Maybe you wished the story arc was different, a particular scene was added, or a minor character had more of a prominent role.
In 2008, advertiser and admirer Helen Klein Ross felt that way after watching Mad Men, the award-winning drama set in New York during the 1960s. She decided to bring her favorite characters to life—on Twitter.
Ross is the creator of @BettyDraper, a popular Twitter novelty account based on January Jones’s character on AMC’s hit show.
For more than three years, Ross and a dedicated community of Mad Men fans have been tweeting as their favorite characters—and even some pieces of furniture—as a way of extending the narrative and developing an interactive community through the show.
“When I saw Don Draper on Twitter," Ross told the Daily Dot, referencing Mad Men’s main character, "I thought ‘Oh my god, this is brilliant. I thought it was really interesting. It’s not only changing marketing; it’s changing storytelling.”
And it’s changing history—sort of.
During the episode “Hands and Knees,” which aired Sep. 26, 2010, Don Draper, Betty’s ex-husband, calls their daughter Sally to tell her he bought tickets to the famous Beatles concert at Shea Stadium. Disappointed that the show didn’t remake that momentous event, Ross decided to have her Sally novelty account (@sally_draper) live-tweet the concert. A popular Don Draper novelty account, @DonDraperSCDP, got in on the action as well.
“On way out the door. Hat? Check. Smokes? Check. Flask? Check. Tickets?” tweeted Don’s account, along with a photo of a real Beatles ticket. “Don't worry @Sally_Draper. We won't miss the Beatles. First comes warm up acts no one's ever heard of.”
Once they arrived at the show, Beatlemania kicked in.
“WE'RE HERE!! WE'RE REALLY HERE!! I CAN"T BELIEVE I"M BREATHING THE SAME AIR AS THE BEATLES!!!!” tweeted @sally_draper.
Ross and the other parody accounts all used the hashtag #mmbeatles to track the excitement and to share footage from the 1965 concert.
Some Twitter users even shared stories from when they actually attended the show.
After the episode aired, Ross sifted through all the tweets, videos, and photos to create a “twepisode” of the best content. The result’s a fascinating mashup of history and parody, putting a modern spin on the famous concert.
“Audiences are socially voracious,” Ross said. “Twitter is an easy way to let audiences feel a part of the mother ship.”
At the helm of this mother ship is Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner. In 2009, Ross met Weiner at the 50th anniversary of the Clio Awards, which has recognized excellence in advertising and design since 1960.
“It was a thrill,” said Ross, who live-tweeted the awards as if it were 1963. “He was very complimentary and appreciative for bringing his characters into the Twitterverse.”
Ross is looking forward to extending the meta-narrative of Mad Men even further come March 25, when the show’s fifth season premieres.
“Entertainment is now realizing how to take advantage of the Web,” Ross concluded. “Those gates have been opened and everyone is pouring into the playground and they don’t want to watch everyone play. They want to play too.”
- SXSW Panel: @BettyDraper’s Guide to Social Storytelling
- Monday, March 12, 9:30 am
- Omni Downtown, Longhorn Room