Maas (Adventures of an Advertising Woman, 1987, etc.) looks back on her days as a pioneering female copywriter and ad executive in the heady ’60s and ’70s, dishing on the profligate behavior characteristic of the industry at that time as dramatized by the TV series Mad Men.
The author frequently references that show’s authenticity (and occasional infelicities) as she remembers the institutional sexism and hard-partying ethos of the ad business in those years, but her real brief is to reflect on the special challenges facing women whose professional success often came at the expense of feeling fulfilled as wives and mothers. Maas was a star at Ogilvy and Mather, rising from copywriter to creative director and ultimately establishing her own firm (she would oversee the iconic “I Love New York” campaign of the mid ’70s), but her success was tempered by guilt over neglecting her young daughters and fraught with what today could only be described as gross sexual harassment. The author writes without bitterness about these difficulties, managing to convey the fun and excitement of the era and cheekily recounting tales of wild affairs and stylish dissolution. She has interesting observations about the “creative revolution” that swept the industry during her heyday and provides juicy anecdotes about such figures as advertising legend David Ogilvy and hotel magnate Leona Helmsley (with whom she had a brief and disastrous professional entanglement). Maas’ memoir will likely not have the impact of her classic 1977 tome How to Advertise (co-written with Kenneth Roman), but this slight volume is a bracing and consistently engaging look at the realities behind the fetishized nostalgia of Mad Men.
Funny and informative, with the kick of a dry martini.