Sunday, June 03, 2012

Enjoy Mad Men check out Mad Women

I first heard of Jane Maas and her book Mad Women: The Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the '60s and Beyond when Kim Ukura included it on her list of Nonfiction for the Life and Times of Mad Men on Book Riot. Kim writes:
In this memoir, “real life Peggy Olson” Jane Maas writes about her time as a copywriter the world of advertising in New York. Maas started her career in 1964 at Ogilvy and Mather, eventually becoming the president of an agency in New York. Honestly, who doesn’t want to hear more about what life was like for the Peggy Olsons of the world?
I had recently begun watching Mad Men and was intrigued with show and the character of Peggy Olson. Sex at the office, three-martini lunches, constant cigarette smoking and women treated as second class citizens was this show accurate? Jane Maas using her own experiences along with interviews with her peers provides an insider’s view. I had to read this book.

Is the show accurate?
Mostly yes, though most people Jane knew didn’t drink in the mornings and those who smoke find the smoking on the show phony. Cigarette smokers know that smoking is a habit that smokers aren’t aware of.  The actors on the show make a big production of their smoking.  The details of the sets including the office and apartment furnishings and character attire are right-on except for Peggy; they get an accessory wrong.  I am not going to be a spoiler you will have to read the book to find out what it is.  The show's depiction of sex at the office and women being treated as second class citizens is accurate.

What about Jane? How did her real-life experiences compare with Peggy’s?
Jane confirms women didn’t make the same salary as a man with the same title, didn’t have equal space – the guys got offices with windows, women got cubicles.  There were also accounts women were not allowed to work on such as car advertising. Jane writes: 

Why should men take us seriously as advertising professionals? Women weren’t even taken seriously as consumers. (pg. 55)
Jane did have two advantages over Peggy and most other working women of the time:
She had a supportive, successful well-connected and liberal-minded husband. She also had Mabel her nanny and housekeeper who lived with the family Monday through Friday. Jane admits she would not have been able to devote her life to her career without Mabel who came to the family in 1963 and stayed for thirty-two years.*

Mad Women includes networking and career lessons.  I enjoyed the following:
Sit at the front of the room:
Jane who is short would always sit in the front-row at agency meetings.

It is a huge advantage, because in addition to seeing better, you are also seen. (pg. 35)
Priority setting from Mary Wells, president and founder of Wells Rich Green:
Early on I learned to focus and eliminate from my life anything that didn’t really matter because so much in my life did matter.  I pretty well eliminated a social life except with my clients.  They were as interesting to socialize with as anyone else I knew, so that was easy.  My life was simply my family, Wells Rich Greene, and my clients. (pg. 68)
On the importance of a “network:”
Jane receives an offer from Leona Helmsley, yes “the Queen of Mean” Leona Helmsley of Helmsley Hotels, to market the Helmsley motels. Jane would have her own advertising agency.  Leona offers to help Jane get lots of other clients. 

At home that night Jane asked her husband Michael what he thought.  He said what do you have to lose and she agreed.  End of discussion.  In hindsight:
Few men would make a big decision like changing jobs without checking with their Old Boy network.  Women still don’t have that instinctive reaction, nor do we have as good an Old Girl network.  We’re getting better, but we’re not there yet. (pg. 193)
Bottom Line:
I enjoyed this book especially its author Jane Maas.  Jane is warm, professional and likeable.  She seems honest.  She admits her book Adventures of an Advertising Women was a whitewashed memoir.  As president of a New York advertising agency she wrote the book to help attract new business.  In Mad Women she revisits clients and advertising campaigns mentioned in her previous book writing the truth this time.  She doesn’t come across as bitter even when describing the sexism and challenges she faced. Actually, she says she was having a wonderful time. 
If you watch Mad Men, are interested in advertising, life in the sixties, or successful career women, you may enjoy this book. I’ve left out Jane’s perspective on being a working mother and her take on where women are today, if interested you will have to read the book.

 *This is the third time I’ve read about career women getting help with their housekeeping. First Mary Kay Ash, then Lisa Bloom and now Jane Maas  I am beginning to believe them, a housekeeper is a necessity.


  1. It was similar in sales in the late 60's and 70's. When I joined my sales team at Xerox, we had weekly team meetings at a topless bar in DC. AFter about three weeks, they were moved to a "regular" bar. Neither of the women on the team had said a word ... I think the men were uncomfortable.

    Drinking lunch, smoking, sex with co-workers, drug use, and the old boys' network were the norm. The women could be found at the office a 7 am and 7 pm, but the men were only there when absolutely necessary.

    But - and this is a huge but - that was the way of the world. We felt that we were treated differently, but we were also treated as little sisters by our teams. if you found a good person on your team to teach you, you could excel. When I left my territory to go into customer training, I was #2 in the DC branch, and the guys on my team were very proud of me.

    Thankfully, i think things have changed a lot. well, i hope so!

  2. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one! I haven't gotten into Mad Men yet, but I will be on my list for after I get started with the show. I like the advice about sitting in the front row. I never do that, but it's a simple and good idea.

  3. Savvy, This book sounds so good! I watch Mad Men and am fascinated by that era. I grew up in it, but was young when this was all going on. I'm glad to here it's mostly accurate. Funny you should mention cars. Peggy wasn't allowed to be on the creative team for Jaguar so it sounds accurate indeed.

  4. I LOVE Mad Men! This book sounds awesome :) Found you on SITS Saturday Sharefest :)

  5. Webb thanks for sharing your experiences. It seems unbelievable today to hear weekly team meetings were held at topless bar. Funny too how the men were the ones who were uncomfortable. I am happy to hear you had a positive experience and the men were proud of your success. I bet you made a lot less than they did though.

  6. Kim,
    I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the book. I don't sit in the front row either, but I am going to from now on. I have gotten pushed to the front row (as new people have joined) in my aerobics classes. I have noticed being in front makes me feel more confident (and less likely to slack off.)

  7. Monica,
    I saw the Jaguar episode shortly after I read the book. The show does get it right. Season finale on Sunday - can't wait to see what they have in store for us.

  8. Jessica,
    Thanks for stopping in. Glad to meet another Mad Men fan.

  9. I'm so glad you stopped by my blog today. I've been wondering what book to read next and this sounds like something I would enjoy.

    I've also been trying to decide what series to watch on Netflix, now that I've finished watching Grey's Anatomy. I think Mad Men will fit the bill nicely. :)

  10. Coming by from the Saturday sharefest at SITS. Thank you for visiting my blog also! :) I don't watch Mad Men, but I do read enough EW and People and general EOnline to know the show, so I found this very interesting. I especially like the part about the housekeeper, as that makes perfect sense, even in today's culture.

  11. Stopped by from SITS... An excellent review. Thanks for sharing it!