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An Evening With Legendary “Mad Woman” Jane Maas

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Last night was a special night for us here at Overdrive. Not only did we successfully host our FIRST event at our office, but the event featured none other than the legendary mad woman, Jane Maas. Jane Maas has one of the most distinguished careers in advertising and for all those Mad Men fans out there, she is like the real-life Peggy Olson, being one of the few females to work her way into the advertising world during the 1960s. She worked for none other than David Ogilvy, rose to creative director at Ogilvy & Mather, and then went on to be the President of Earle Palmer Brown.

Jane Maas is truly a legend. From the moment she walked in our office, to the end of the evening, she was nothing but energetic, humorous and ready to tell all! From her several books, including her biography, “Adventures of An Advertising Woman,” and “How to Advertise,” to her expertise on many large brands, including the “I love New York” campaign, she exhibits humility and expertise in every word. When discussing the “I love New York” campaign, she went on about the different male counterparts that say they were the sole creator of the campaign. She admitted, “There may be many fathers of “I love New York” but I can say that I’m its only mother.” We had the pleasure of hearing anecdotes from her latest book, “Mad Women,” as well as receiving personalized signed copies from Jane herself!

Some key takeaways from her seminar which had everyone laughing, cheering and wanting to hear more included the scandalous side of the sexy 60s in advertising, elements of effective communication and some teasers from her book “Mad Women.”

To kick-start the evening, Jane shared with us the three questions she is most commonly asked about her life as a woman during the advertising world in the 1960s:

  1. Were women really treated as second-class citizens?
  2. Did people really have three martini lunches? AND…
  3. Was there really that much sex in the office?

The answer to all three that she humorously spits out every time is, “Unequivocally yes!” Needless to say, within the first five minutes of her speaking, she had everyone laughing and eager to hear the good, the bad and the ugly of her advertising days in the 60s.

When Jane turned to the subject of advertising itself, there is no escaping the façade of drinking, smoking and sex, but she did enlighten us on some main, constructive points.

Firstly, why is advertising so hard and what are the elements of effective communication to help simplify the process? Jane dove right in. Be single minded because getting one idea across is hard enough. Getting two across in the same message is VERY difficult, and three is impossible. Be simple because consumers don’t want to work and they will not work to figure out your message! Narrow your target audience and make sure they know you are trying to reach them. As Jane quoted David Ogilvy, “You can’t save souls in an empty church,” we all shook our heads in agreement. If you try to talk to everybody, you’ll end up not talking to anybody. Lastly, get your key consumer benefit across. The audience should know exactly what you’re advertising and it should “grab their attention by the jugular.”

Her insights were clear and simple and proven after we watched about 10 commercials that either hit the mark by incorporating her philosophies or flopped for trying too hard. Perhaps one of our most favorite takeaways from the evening was her advice that, “If you want digital help- go to a digital agency!” Needless to say, a loud round of applause erupted after that piece of advice!

Jane concluded the evening by reminiscing and sharing with us anecdotes and interview stories from her book that left everyone eager to begin reading right away and led us to proclaim that we’re starting a book club here at Overdrive! The few stories she told, many without disclosing names, were nothing short of humorous, shocking and dramatic all rolled into one. Her insights, her experience and the energy she exudes to the audience are all things you truly have to see to believe. To quote Harry Gold, “Thank you for your wisdom, Jane!”

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