I've just finished reading 'Mad Women' by Jane Maas. Subtitled, 'The Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the '60s and Beyond,' the book is a page-turning, kiss-and-tell of a real world Peggy Olson (of ‘Mad Men’ fame).
Jane began her career at Ogilvy & Mather as a copywriter in 1964, and rose to become a creative director and agency officer before leaving to join the legendary Wells Rich Greene in 1976. Our paths crossed in 1992, when Ed and I joined the now defunct Earle Palmer Brown, where Jane served as chairman emeritus.
I was anxious to read Jane's tome since ‘Mad Men’ has mesmerized me since season one, episode one. And, I wanted to know if the AMC show's depiction of ad agency life in the 1960s as a non-stop booze and sex fest was accurate. It was.
Mother Maas, as she called herself at O&M (and, later at EPB), recounts one priceless story after another. The sex was widespread (no pun intended) and part of the workaday culture of agency life. As Jane writes, most women knew sleeping with the boss was the only path to success. (It either led to a higher paying job or, as happened in ‘Mad Men,’ marrying the boss and living a superficial, if comfortable, life in the suburbs.)
The booze was everywhere in the 1960s. And, when it was properly mixed with hormones, as was the case on every Ogilvy boat ride party around Manhattan Island, all hell would break loose. Joan writes, “It was said no woman ever returned a virgin from the Ogilvy boat ride.” She called the annual party an “orgy of heavy drinking and overt sex.” Wow! That sounds just like a Dennis Kozlowski birthday bash.
And, women were unquestionably treated as second class citizens. After proving her worth on 'female' accounts such as soap, detergent and tampons, Jane got her big chance by being added to the American Express business (a traditional bastion of male-only account executives and creative types).
At her first meeting at AmEx headquarters, Jane was, naturally, the only woman in the oak-paneled conference room. All eight men stood, waiting for her to sit. Not wanting to be treated differently, Ms. Maas remained standing until the CEO of Amex suddenly (and, unexpectedly) entered the conference room. He strode right up to Jane, pulled out her chair and asked her to sit. He then said, “Forget your steno pad, dear? We can get you one.” He thought she was an agency secretary brought along to take notes.
The stories are endless, hilarious and, in retrospect, shocking. One of the best concerned the first women-owned ad agency, Trager & Rosen. At their first meeting with a hotel chain CEO, T&R were asked to quote a fee. The CEO was horrified, and responded, “We don't pay hookers that much!”
Jane Maas was worth her weight in gold, and I'm proud to say I had an opportunity to work with her at the very tail end of her career. And, the book is well worth the read for anyone interested in advertising, the women's movement or Mad Men lore. Best of all, it won't cost as much as a hooker.