GREG MIGLIORE

Sexy 'Mad Men' role only boosts Jaguar's image

Jaguar's E-type has been the object of lust and controversy on the hit TV show "Mad Men."
Greg Migliore is news editor at Autoweek, an affiliate of Automotive News.
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DETROIT -- From Don Draper boozily working the gearbox of an E-type to a stereotypically sleazy car dealer seeking sex in exchange for his approval of an advertising campaign, Jaguar isn't exactly burnishing its image with its string of recent appearances on the popular TV drama "Mad Men."

On the other hand, when is the last time that people who are not car enthusiasts were this abuzz over Jaguar, and this familiar with the gorgeous, timeless 1960s XKE?

For those who subscribe to the theory that all publicity is good publicity, Jaguar is enjoying a bonanza.

After all, the company and the cars have been mentioned with regularity this season as the fictional mid-1960s advertising agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce vies for its business. The E-type is portrayed as an object of lust. And set against the tableau of glamorous Madison Avenue nearly 50 years ago, it looks all the more dazzling on today's high-definition televisions.

The plotline has people talking, and in this view, it has offered some direct-injection power for a series that has grown almost overpopulated with characters and story lines. Draper and crew are actually working toward a common goal -- Jaguar's business, rather than simply drinking and smoking their way through the day (though they still manage to accomplish that with remarkable proficiency).

There are some downers, most notably when one of the characters, Lane Pryce, tries to commit suicide in a parking garage, only to find that his XKE won't start. Intriguingly, a researcher for "Mad Men" actually called Jag inquiring how to make it not start.

Still, is it a surprise to anyone that a 1960s Jaguar didn't start on occasion? Car guy or not, most people know that the consistent reliability of most vehicles today is a fairly recent occurrence. Plenty of cars from the era didn't start for a very good reason, or seemingly for no reason at all.

Ultimately, Pryce hanged himself in his office, with no Jag assistance.

While the firm has found itself at the center of some of the series' darker plot twists, it's undeniable that Jaguar has received plenty of ink over the story lines. And that's just it: They are story lines.

The unseemly Jag dealer and executives on the show are fictional. The E-type is primarily a prop. It isn't fair to reach any negative conclusions about the British firm today based on this when its name and its cars really are just part of the plot. Ferrari or even Chevrolet could have easily filled in for the role. Besides, as anyone who watches "Mad Men" knows, the conduct of Draper and Roger Sterling and Co. is hardly an endorsement of American business practices of the era.

The company is taking it all in good humor, said Stuart Schorr, Jaguar vice president of public relations.

"No. 1, we like the show," he said. "No. 2, we are enjoying seeing a broader public conversation about the Jaguar brand."

There's no pay-for-play deal here, either, Schorr said. The company isn't privy to the scripts ahead of time, and it's only role has been helping "Mad Men" producers in research.

Really, Jag needs publicity right now as it tries to build on fresh momentum. The F-Type sports car, based on the striking C-X16 concept, likely will be revealed this fall at the Paris motor show, and brand sales have increased 9 percent this year, to 5,476 units through May.

The final analysis: Jaguar's recurring appearances on a trendy TV show is nothing but free advertising that brings its sporting, sexy styles of years gone by to a new audience.

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