I think it's fair to call Mad Men a phenomenon.

Mad Men's Season 3 premiered at 2.8 million viewers, up 33% from last year's season. Of course, a lot of this success is due to word-of-mouth. Or word-of-facebook-updates, anyway. Though I'm sure that all AMC efforts to perpetuate pre-season buzz factored in, there is one that stood out to me:

The partnership of Mad Men and Banana Republic.

Banana Republic's tie-in collection embodied a modern take on Mad Men's 1950/60's fashions. They emulated the bold, sans-serif font and placed signage around the store that proclaimed "MAD ABOUT ______." (Skirts, ties, you name it.)

In turn, AMC hosted a "casting call" for a walk-on role in the show. The challenge is to submit a photo of yourself in Mad Men-worthy attire. The caveat? Your individual code required to enter is available only at Banana Republic. Also, linked immediately from the contest is a "Style Guide" which shows Banana Republic outfits that would be appropriate for different Mad Men characters.

You can view the semi-finalists here.

So here's what I want to know:

Who's benefiting more from this partnership?

Mad Men advertises for Banana Republic on their website. Banana Republic advertises Mad Men in their stores. In theory, Mad Men viewers will shop at Banana Republic, but also, Banana Republic shoppers / fashionistas may take up the show because of the tie-ins. Although I'm sure that it's Banana Republic who ponied up some cash for a piece of Mad Men's already-huge viewership, I can see both parties benefiting in quantitative ways.

But I wonder if the price-tag for the Banana Republic-Mad Men merger was very high, since it was likely mutually beneficial. It makes me wonder if we will see more of these tactics as we ride out the recession. The use of product-symbiosis is something to look for in the future, and in the meantime, you can dress like Joan Holloway while watching the show, Sundays at 10.