I am amazed at how the very first scene of Madmen is immediately a display of race & gender dynamics of America, through which it introduced its first problem (‘how do we sell a certain brand of cigarettes?’) - which, abstracted, is really the fundament exploration of Madmen.
Cigarettes are Sublime as Richard Klein says, they are the ‘perfect pleasure’ as Wilde says - their dark beauty is constructed through their literary, philosophical, and cultural history - the perfect symbol. And Madmen, through advertising, really evaluates these constructions.
Madmen is a series of reading culture (stories) & creating culture (stories). First, tell me your story as Don says, and then, let me take your story, and raise you my own story - what would you do? And viola, advertising, with the goal of a harmonious collective consciousness. https://twitter.com/shahamfarooq/status/1184137569648435200
I mean this is really what Don is doing, what Peggy learns, what Ginsberg is so good at, and what Faye understands metaphysically:

Take existing stories, break them down into affects, rearrange into other stories and fashion them into products, get feedback, repeat. https://twitter.com/shahamfarooq/status/1221643370478612481
I.e. In this very first scene Don applies the formula "people tell you who they are, but we ignore it b/c we want them to be who we want them to be" w/o ignoring the systems of race, gender, etc. - which design the very construction of the self. https://twitter.com/shahamfarooq/status/1184137573574369280?s=20
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