"The author provides an insider’s view of the advertising mystique, as her humorous and warm traits come through, making the book eminently readable," writes Arun Bhatia.
Jane Maas was the creator of the campaign I 0 NY (I love New York) that was wildly successful and has by now entered the vocabulary. She wrote two other books, How to Advertise, which was very popular, and Better Business Catalogues. This is her third, a sprightly, spirited autobiography.
The names she drops may not all be familiar to us here, but this absorbing real life story of a woman at the top of her profession in the male dominated world of Madison Avenue provides insights that would certainly hold good on India’s advertising landscape. In this real life odyssey of an advertising woman, she says she “thought and worked her way to the top”. She provides an insider’s view of the advertising mystique. Jane Maas’ humorous and warm traits come through, making the book eminently readable. The plus point is that she is a successful wife and mother.
In the very first paragraph, she states she is up at 5:30 a.m. goes jogging with her husband Michael, who, in New York’s Central Park, goes clockwise as he is left handed, and she, counterclockwise, “so that Michael sometimes gives me an affectionate pat on the rear end.”
She uses the time, while jogging, “to make a list of things I want to accomplish today. Then I turn the letters into an acronym so it’s easy to remember. This morning’s list turns into SAJSTINOPM. S, for the new business presentation to the Society of Savings Bank. A for the call to my attorney, J for a Japanese kite…” and so on.
That S in the acronym is an interesting story. The Society for Savings Bank of Hartford, a staid bankers’ outfit, needed a change of image to bring out how innovative they really were. The line to be used was “Society is on the move”. She recommended they use a running shoe as their symbol and the television storyboard showed another one of her suggestions – that everyone in the bank wear running shoes for the kickoff month of the campaign. Her agency won above the three that had made presentations. The success of the campaign was measured not only by the increased business, but also by streetside remarks made to the bank’s personnel. The bankmen, who all wore running shoes, would hear greetings like “Hi Society” and “I hear you are on the move.”
She traces her life at her alma mater Bucknell University, a Fulbright scholarship in France, Cornell University, her stint at Time magazine and the radio and TV. Of the latter, she wrote scripts for Esso, who were looking for cultural programs that would be good for the company’s image. One of the one hour programs on the culture of various countries included Satyajit Ray’s mini-film The Kite.
She had worked under David Ogilvy, the legend on Madison Avenue. There were some confrontations and there are many anecdotes. D O urged his staff to use his clients’ products. "So we bathed in Dove soap, brushed with Aim toothpaste, began our days with Maxim coffee, ate Pepperidge Farm bread…Not all of us could afford a Mercedes Benz but David forgave that."
“More advertisers should realize that if they allow product managers to abuse the people who create their advertising, they will lose out in the end. The best creative people will ask for other assignments and be replaced by drones or whipped dogs who can stomach this type of client.” And here is another gem from her:
“During a period when coffee prices were rising steeply and consumers were drinking less of it, General Foods decided on lower price by mixing in less expensive ingredients such as chicory and molasses, and the product was promoted as ‘coffee made the Scandinavian way’.”
There is a full chapter on the I love New York experience and some zany goings on in the chapter ‘Wild animals I have known’ as also a sour experience of working with an hotel heiress.
One puts away the book realizing the extent of creativity that goes into advertising, a better understanding of what makes ad people tick, and even perhaps become a better client.
Arun Bhatia is a resident of Bengaluru and an avid reader, writer, and photographer. He has also modeled in TV commercials.