It sure is nice to see Don, Roger, Joan, and Peggy together again and the retro ads sure are fun, but we still can't shake the feeling that Tina Brown's Mad Men-inspired Newsweek issue feels more like an advertisement or memorabilia than it does an issue of a magazine. The social media's response to Newsweek's current double issue, which features Mad Men era art direction, down to retro ads by Dunkin Donuts seem to be a hit. And we can't argue, since it's an attention-grabbing cover, more striking than the New York Times Magazine cover from four years ago.
As a stunt, it may be better than Newsweek's Michele Bachmann crazy eyes and that creepy Princess Diana cover, but it certainly isn't very new. Back in 2008, Rolling Stone played with the idea of a Life on Mars issue, considering Life on Mars didn't pan out very well, Rolling Stone is lucky theirs was just a faux cover. That same year, Dexter's big marketing campaign was to re-envision some of Condé Nast's flagship magazines (Vanity Fair, The New Yorker) along with magazines like Esquire and Us with Dexter-specified issues.
As an act of journalism, the issue does feel a bit like over the top Mad Men shilling, essentially turning the entire magazine into a big ad for a show. Sure, cover stories on stars and new shows happen all the time in magazines (it keeps Vanity Fair in business), but when a magazine adapts to a television show's brand and bends dresses itself up in its look and feel, it's a bit off and certainly too meta for its own good. As Marketplace's Heidi Moore put it in a tweet from this morning:
Is journalism now just a hype machine for TV shows? How did what should be a blurb get an entire issue in national mag? bit.ly/AwTgAR— Heidi N. Moore (@moorehn) March 19, 2012
But, hey, we're talking about Newsweek, right? And for Tina Brown, the once and future queen of buzz, that's the entire point.