Jane Maas: Mother of Mad Womxn

Jane Maas in the 1960s. Source: New York Times

Crazy to remind ourselves that industries can come with both fathers and mothers, right?

The late Jane Maas started her career on Madison Avenue in 1964, climbing from a copywriter role at what was then Ogilvy & Mather to the company’s second woman vice president. She later became a senior vice president at Wells Rich Greene, and the first woman to head a major NYC agency she didn't found as president of Muller Jordan Weiss.

Referred to as “the real Peggy Olson, right out of ‘Mad Men’” by Ad Age, Jane’s portfolio is far and wide with creative work on accounts from Proctor & Gamble to Maxwell House coffee, Dove soap and Johnson Wax. But her “I Love New York” campaign for New York City was by far her most long-lasting contribution to advertising history.

In 1978, people didn't really love New York, or even think of it as a vacation destination. In her memoir titled Mad Women, Jane said the campaign needed people to not only come to New York, but keep coming back.

“The commercial [left] began to air on Valentine’s Day and we did our usual

‘roadblocking’ and then some,” Jane wrote.

“You couldn’t turn on a television set without seeing our spot… The impact on the city’s economy was immediate too; people came to see the shows, stayed in the hotels, ate in the restaurants, rode in the taxis. And the commercial went on to become the only one in history to win a Tony Award.”

By the end of the summer, research showed that 90 percent of people in the campaign’s target market were aware of the ads. Jane commented, “Not bad, when you consider that only 89 percent of people in the United States know that Christopher Columbus discovered this country."

"You've got to have a tough hide and not take things personally."

When it came to Jane’s opinions and how they appear to modern-day feminists, they’re maybe a bit less motherly.

Jane is the only person who has won “The Most Obnoxious Commercial Depicting Women” award two years in a row, as she made ads in the suburban age - when a stereotypical housewife looking to please her husband was often the target audience.

Jane argues that opponents to the ads should critique how these roles were enforced in our society, rather than how they were reflected in advertisements.

Below left: At Wells Rich Green, Jane led creative work for Proctor & Gamble and its household brands, including Tide, Always, Pampers, and more.

She has said the key to her success as a woman is that she was “small and non-threatening" and had a sense of humor about herself. "You’ve got to have a tough hide and not take things personally.”

Her main critique of womxn in the industry was that “we have not yet learned to network and support each other the way men do. I look at my men friends in the business and how hard they work to help young men come up in the business, and I think women—certainly then and still now—have had such a job climbing up the ladder, that the more successful a women is (and there are exceptions to this) … the more she tends not to mentor, the more she tends to think: 'Well I made it, baby, now let’s see how you do it.'”

Jane’s memoirs and speeches remind us of issues that we might not face personally, but that the womxn before us have overcome to get to where we are now.

Mad Women describes how in the 60s, the term “sexual harassment” hadn’t been invented yet, or "certainly wasn’t in our vocabularies."

"The boss was in control of your salary, your raise, your career advancement… your life," Jane wrote. "If he wanted to go to bed with you, you had to ask yourself what mattered more: your self-respect or your career."

She talks about how balancing the life of a perfect wife, wonderful mother and outstanding career woman was in fact, and continues to be, an impossible and unreasonable societal expectation.

“We were supposed to perform a sort of triage as to which role took precedence at any given moment. What got fried up in the process was the woman. We didn’t think we had done any of the three roles as well as we should have.

"So, as we sat in our apartment house laundry rooms late at night, we sobbed and snarled.”

"I wonder why it took women so long to stand up for ourselves."

“Everything in the sixties seemed to conspire to make women’s lives more difficult or more uncomfortable,” Jane said.

However, at a time when womxn got their first go at the advertising industry and the feminist movement was on the rise, Jane adds that “despite all the conformity… it was also such a time of rebellion, of emerging diversity, of fighting for rights, that I wonder why it took women so long to stand up for ourselves.”

When Jane entered the industry, "wearing the pants" in the family was a damning thing to say about a woman. "We never wore pants to the office. If there was a snowstorm, you might wear slacks en route to work, but you immediately changed into a dress or a skirt.

"I was the first woman at Ogilvy to wear a pantsuit to the office. It was 1965, and I caused quite a stir."

May we, in 2019, continue to do the same.

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