With the fifth season of Mad Men slated to start next month, fans are already counting down the days. The show has become a favorite by letting its viewers revel in the glamour of the 1960s while still pointing a finger at the era’s backwardness — particularly when it comes to the treatment of women. But with all the casual affairs and misogyny, nonstop smoking and drinking, is Mad Men exaggerating?
Not so much, says advertising veteran Jane Maas. In her new memoir Mad Women, Maas writes about working on Madison Avenue in the 1960s and '70s, where she started out as a copywriter at Ogilvy & Mather. Even though the agency had a whole fleet of female employees, Maas says that she and her colleagues were relegated to “women accounts.”
“I guess men figured we couldn’t balance a check book, so we couldn’t work on a bank,” Maas tells Kurt Andersen. “And obviously we didn’t know how to drive very well, so cars were out. And liquor was something they used to seduce us, so …”
Despite the persistent sexism, Maas rose up the ranks to creative director and eventually became head of another agency. Still, at the end of the day, her job was to make ads that sold products geared toward the stereotypical housewife. “The National Organization of Women gave me their very first award for the most obnoxious commercial of the year depicting women,” she recalls.
“I’m the only person in the world who has won the obnoxious commercial award twice in a row. But I sold a lot of Dove and a lot of Maxwell House Coffee.”
Forty years later, according to Maas, things are looking up. "I think we have changed,” she says. “We don't have two women talking in the kitchen as though their marriages might end because they have ring around the collar."