'Mad Women' Tell-All Reveals Where Mad Men Gets it Right--and Wrong
Interview with author and former Ogilvy creative Jane Maas, who chronicles women in the Golden Age of advertisingBy: Rupal Parekh, Published: Oct 03, 2011
If Don Draper or Roger Sterling were to write a tell-all, it wouldn't be hard to guess what it'd say -- something along the lines of "I cheated on my wife with so and so and I drank way too many whiskeys." But if Peggy Olson or Joan Harris were to spill all their secrets, wouldn't it be more enlightening?
That's the thinking behind a book scheduled to debut just ahead of the long-awaited fifth season of "Mad Men" next year. "Mad Women: the Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the '60s and Beyond," is the latest work of creative legend Jane Maas.
Back in the golden days of Madison Avenue, Ms. Maas was a creative director at Ogilvy & Mather, working on clients such as General Foods, S.C. Johnson and American Express before moving on to Procter & Gamble and the "I Love New York" campaign at Wells Rich Greene. In the late '80s, she was named president of the New York office of Earle Palmer Brown, one of the first female execs in advertising to achieve a top post. Prior to "Mad Women," Ms. Maas co-authored the book "How to Advertise" and penned an autobiography, "Adventures of an Advertising Woman."
In Ms. Maas' words, her latest book is the "true story of what it was like for women in advertising in that era of rampant sex, three-martini lunches and overt sexism." We can expect plenty of colorful anecdotes, such as an annual Ogilvy boat ride that Ms. Maas remembers as a "a sex-and-booze filled orgy." There's a sober side too, one that deals with the injustices women faced at the time. They were rarely promoted to roles beyond a secretary, suffered unequal pay and female executives were discouraged from having children.
Voices in the book, which is published by Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin's Press, include Mary Wells Lawrence, founder of Wells Rich Greene; Shelly Lazarus of Ogilvy and former McCann creative Laurel Cutler, as well as the newer generation of adwomen. Oh, and Ms. Maas spoke to a few men too.
Ad Age: What can we expect from "Mad Women"?
Ms. Maas: This book has two aspects. First, it's funny. Chapter Two is called "Sex in the Office," and Chapter Three is "Get the Money Before They Screw You." [The late] Shirley Polykoff [former Foote Cone Belding exec and creator of the Clairol tagline Does She ... Or Doesn't She?] gave me some advice one day and she said 'Get the money before they screw you like they screwed me,' she said [referring to] the men who run the agencies. Other chapters are about drinking, smoking and drugs. Second, in the midst of all the fun and games, there's a very serious message about women's roles in advertising and in women's business in general.
Ad Age: What are some of the ways in which working in the ad business 50 years ago is different than it is today?
Ms. Maas: I'll tell you first what is most similar. When I talk to women who were working mothers in the '60s and when I talk to the working mothers today in 2011, they sound the same. They use exactly the same words. They say, 'I'm torn, I'm not being a really good mother, I'm not being a really good wife, and I'm not being a really good professional.' Women who have kids are just as torn as we were back then. The biggest thing that's changed is that women are not accepting of being second-class citizens anymore. When I was a junior copywriter at Ogilvy, a man who sat next to me went into the boss and announced he was getting married; it was a great thing and he got a raise. When women announced they were getting married they were warned they had to leave if they got pregnant. Well not if, it was when -- back then everybody expected they were going to get pregnant. And, there was no maternity leave. No one was expected to come back after having a baby because women who had children under the age of 16 did not work in those days; it was socially unacceptable to have young children and work. And if you did, everybody at the office thought you were married to a real deadbeat, that your husband must be a drunk, otherwise you wouldn't be there. You don't see working moms hanging around at the Mad Men agencies.
Ad Age: Do you think Mad Men is accurate in its portrayal of women?
Ms. Maas: Yes, I do. For instance, Peggy Olson has a career path very similar to mine; she started off as a secretary and then got to writing copy by pleading, and then writing copy on nights and weekends until finally she was promoted to a copywriter. Still, a lot of her ideas are met with poo poo because the men think they know better. I think that's very realistic in terms of how women copywriters were treated in those days -- they were only allowed to work on certain types of products like baby food and things like that.
Ad Age: Are there any details about life in advertising as a woman that the show misses out on?
Ms. Maas: The only thing I think it gets wrong is that once a woman was promoted to being a copywriter, she wore a hat in the office. At Ogilvy, at Y&R -- everywhere -- it was a symbol that you achieved new status. Secretaries did not wear hats in the office. A number of women copywriters, predating me in the late '50s, told me that they wore their hats even when she went to the ladies' room.
Ad Age: In 2011, you think that the status of women in the ad business at executive levels is where it needs to be?
Ms. Maas: There's a long way to go to resolve that terrible conflict that women who are working and mothers have, but that has nothing to do with advertising. That's a gender problem that women will have to solve and men are going to have to help them solve it. The advertising industry has recognized women widely and wonderfully. There have been so many women in top creative roles and so many women running agencies. I'm sure the flaming feminists would say onward onward, but I think we're doing very well.