As one of the few female copywriters, and later Creative Directors, at Ogilvy in the 1960s, Jane Maas has been described as the “real life Peggy Olson,” Her new book Mad Women: The Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the '60s and Beyond certainly does describe much of the same gender inequity and unchecked office drinking and sex we see in the show.
Maas, also co-author or the classic book How to Advertise, provides plenty of fun, salacious detail about life in a major agency during the “golden age” of advertising, but also dives into the troubling aspects of women struggling to gain ground at work, often facing exploitation and inequality while grappling with choices between career and family.
Maas, while instrumental in the “I Love New York” campaign, talked about being relegated to household cleaning products and accounts considered to be more appropriate for women.
“Men wouldn’t let us get near a lot of accounts creatively because they felt there was no way we would understand them,” citing liquor, automotive, and finance based accounts as off-limits.
Her book offers vivid recollections of workplace dynamics of the sixties, right down to details of office dress code. (Once a woman was promoted from secretary to junior copywriter, she wore a hat all day instead of removing it at work, as a sort of status symbol. A little piece of trivia that Mad Men apparently overlooked)
While Maas concedes that the days of gross inequality have changed, there are still a ways to go, as she discusses in the last chapter of her book “Have You Really Come Such a Long Way Baby?”
“We’ve made inroads, but women still need to work better and harder than the guy sitting to the right and left of them. Every time I walk into an agency, it seems that the room is 75-80% populated by women. A lot of women are going into adverting, yet only a small percentage, I believe 3%, are Creative Directors.”
While Mad Women is largely an account of Maas’ experiences at Ogilvy and beyond, she also comments on the overarching relationships of agencies and their clients, which she feels have sharply declined.
“Agencies and clients used to get together and stay together, like a marriage. Now it seems clients treat agencies as vendors, there is not the same mutual respect and trust.”
Maas is currently a creative consultant, recently blogging about the 2012 Super Bowl commercials for The Wall Street Journal (where her verdict on many of the nostalgic ads was "I think I dreamed this dream before.")