Book Review: Mad Women, The Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the 1960s and Beyond, Jane Maas

| 3 April , 2012 | Reply

You\’ve no doubt heard of the hit TV series, ‘Mad Men,\’ about the hip, over-sexed, heavy drinking, long-lunching, advertising men of Madison Avenue, New York. Now, Jane Maas has written her version of life in advertising in a book called Mad Women.  A rarer breed and repressed these women may have been but, by Jane\’s account, they too embraced office sex, drinking and long-lunches with as much gusto as the men.

Jane Maas was a high-flying advertising woman working in New York in the 60s for Ogilvy and Mather, at a time where the men were almost automatically made Vice Presidents and only one woman was a Vice President, but where Maas became the second. It was she who nursed and coordinated the incredibly successful campaign for ‘I ♥ New York\’ (just like on the T-shirt, and still in use today). It was so successful that she was credited with turning New York into a prime tourist destination.

With plenty of amusing anecdotes and input from others in the industry, Jane Maas\’ book gives an insight into advertising in the 60s and 70s. In some respects, it seems impossible that she is writing about advertising of almost half a century ago. David Ogilvy once wrote to his agency that they should not underestimate the intelligence of the consumer saying, ‘ She is not a moron; she is your wife\’. Not surprising then the campaign that launched a pink walled tyre to appeal to women. Men who had MBAs – or many who did not like David Ogilvy himself – moved straight to copywriting and account director. Women with MBAs moved straight to the typing pool.  If they were lucky, these stenographers might make it out of the pool to being a copywriter. Even then, women usually only worked on the ‘soft\’ accounts like toilet soap and dishwashing liquid.

In other ways, Jane Maas\’ book can be read as history. Wearing gloves and girdles and pert little hats to a work place where dealing with sexual harassment was just another part of the job description, suffering unequal pay and unequal opportunity, being expected to be the perfect wife and mother at the end of a long day\’s work, all seems so long ago.  Or does it?

Available now: HarperCollins RRP$27.99


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