Tina Brown is launching an experiment at Newsweek this week with a “Mad Men” issue that takes every page of the news magazine back to the 1960s.
“I was talking to Matt Weiner, the creator [of "Mad Men"], about what we might do, he mentioned to me that in the show, Newsweek magazine in the ’60s was the magazine they are always reading, because at the time Newsweek was at the top of its game — it was civil rights, women’s liberation, the Kennedys, I mean it was such an incredible time for journalism. I suddenly thought bingo! Why don’t we take the magazine? The whole magazine and take us back to the ’60s,” Brown, the magazine’s editor in chief, told “Nightline” anchor Cynthia McFadden.
Even the ads in the issue are designed in ’60s period-style. Advertisers such as Estee Lauder, Dunkin Donuts, Mercedes Benz and a host of others are enthusiastic about the results, Brown said.
“At the end of the day all the creative directors at the ad agency became so into this that they all were diving into their libraries looking at the great work their agencies have done and sort of applying it to now,” Brown said. “They really have been really creative. I am just thrilled with the way that it is filled with this kind of delight.”
Newsweek’s website will also be “Mad Men”-ified. Since there was no such thing as the Internet in the ’60s, Brown said she and her team took some creative license to create a homepage that will appear in period design.
Brown, who is editor in chief of both Newsweek and The Daily Beast, is widely regarded one of the best magazine editors of her generation and said she knows that when it comes to selling magazines, “the visual matters.”
“People will want to read serious news, but they want to be seduced as well,” Brown said
Over the years, Brown has grabbed headlines and readers with a series of controversial covers, including a nude and pregnant Demi Moore for a Vanity Fair cover in 1991, a cover that Elle magazine emulated with Jessica Simpson for their April 2012 issue.
More recently, Newsweek faced backlash from conservatives when it ran a cover last June depicting presidential hopeful Mitt Romney as one of the stars in the controversial Broadway show, “The Book of Mormon,” and another cover last August with Michele Bachmann captured pictured with what some interpreted as a “deer-in-headlights” expression and the cover line ”The Queen of Rage.”
Denying she intended to make Bachmann look crazy, Brown quipped, “It is how she looked in her pictures.”
Critics also claimed she had gone too far was when after a Newsweek cover story featured a Photoshopped image of Princess Diana at age 50, as if she were alive today.
“I didn’t feel it was disrespectful at all,” Brown said of the Diana cover. “I think it’s about a historical figure, re-imagined in the moment.”
Like them or hate them, the covers have helped fuel Newsweek sales, which are up a healthy 15 percent at newsstands.
“I am very demanding,” Brown told McFadden. “I like people who have passion. I really do, and the people who do well with me are the people who have passion, and are prepared to go the full, you know, the full 360 with it.”
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