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The fifth season of the popular TV show, Mad Men, which centres on the advertising world of 1960s New York, ended last month. One of the episodes raised quite a stir because of a story arc that involved Jaguar, one of the world’s leading carmakers.

The episode depicted the main protagonist of the show Don Draper, the Creative Director and Partner at a fictional agency called Sterling Cooper Draper Price, attempting to clinch the Jaguar account by focusing on the attributes that made the car sexy and racy.

Historically speaking, though, Jaguar ads were not as exciting as portrayed by the show. In fact, the company prided itself more on the engineering behind the car’s façade, and its advertising therefore focused on the features in each model such as engine size and braking mechanisms.

The car on Mad Men was a Jaguar E-type Series 1 Roadster. Its design was based on the Jaguar D-type cars which competed at the Le Mans Endurance races in the 1950s. And although Enzo Ferrari called it “the most beautiful car ever made”, the E-type’s real appeal lay in the muscle under the hood. The sporty, grand tourer came with a 3.8 litre XK6 engine capable of pushing it to a top speed of 240 km/h. It also featured a four-wheel disc braking system which was a novelty at the time.

The E-type cost a reasonable £2,100 and over 70,000 cars were sold, despite the fact that quality of engineering and reliability aside, Jaguars were infamous for requiring owners to drive with a wrench in the trunk or keep a mechanic’s number on hand in case of a malfunction (in Don Draper’s words, the cars were “finicky”).

But as the company had long known, most people bought the car out of emotion rather than any practical need. That is probably why Jaguars remain one of the world’s most coveted cars.

– Shayan Shakeel

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on June 24, 2012

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