#EmptyShelf 2016 #1: Jane Maas – Mad Women

#EmptyShelf 2016 #1: Jane Maas – Mad Women

So, for 2014, Jon Acuff suggested the #EmptyShelf challenge. As I’ve just put my ‘Shelfies‘ into Book Buddy (Pro), now it’s time to start reading some of them, right? So might as well go with #EmptyShelf, and give brief overviews of each book on this blog!

Over the Christmas break, I also managed to read Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin and Big Brother, David Mitchell’s Backstory, and Lisa Genova’s Still Alice, and Left Neglected – all of which I’d recommend … and Still Alice sent me off to donate to Alzheimer’s Research UK.

So, the first book that’s made itself onto this list is Jane Maas Mad Women Bantam: 2012 – written in response to the success of the Mad Men TV Series – Maas worked in a number of senior roles for advertising agencies during that period.

Enjoying this read ..:

A photo posted by Bex Lewis (@drbexl) on


There’s definitely some useful information for teaching here – a segment from p140-141:

Ogilvy’s most lasting gift to the advertising world was proving the importance of market research. His work with the Gallup research firm had convinced him that the more you knew about your consumers, the better your chances of persuading them to buy your brand. Today, Procter & Gamble freely admits that knowing their customers inside out is one of the two key reasons they are the leaders in virtually every category in which they compete. Product quality is the other reason.

In the sixties, the Ogilvy clients most interested in acquiring this kind of information were Lever Brothers and General Foods. Since their brands were purchased mostly by women, out agency became steeped in knowledge of “what women want.” Focus groups were a popular form of consumer research. A research company would recruit six or eight women who normally purchased certain groups or services. They’d sit around a table for about two hours as a professional moderator led them in a discussion about their concerns and needs, likes and dislikes.

On p.158, Maas discusses and idea for a campaign with two burly construction workers to demonstrate ‘beautiful hands’ from using Dove soap:

My Lever clients thought it was a terrible idea, but they allowed me to turn it into a radio campaign we tested for a few weeks one summer. It didn’t work. The radio commercials made people laugh, but they didn’t sell any dishwashing liquid. So we went back to women at the sinks.

On p.166, we hear of an innovative campaign by United Airlines – offering a special promotion on flight/room for business men to take their wives along on a business trip. When they sent a letter to the wives afterwards “thanking them and hoping they enjoyed the trip. It turned out that a fair percentage of the wives who received these letters were quite surprised, they were not the ladies who had been along for the ride. United quietly folded the campaign.

2000px-I_Love_New_York.svgIt was really interesting to read about the origins of the “I Love NY” campaign, promoting New York (Chapter 9).

Our first job was to convince our clients not to spend a penny as yet on advertising, but to devote their entire tiny budget to research.

The research discovered that New York State and New York City were being advertised together, but perceived very differently – the State attracted families who wanted an outdoors experience, the City attracted the ‘culture buff’ – especially Broadway… but people didn’t even really consider New York as a holiday destination. The logo was designed under a free to use licence by Milton Glaser for a one-off fee of $1000 … probably one of the most used/copied designs out there!

So, an interesting read, not hard to read – with a good mix of humour and insights, recognising that it’s a biography and all that brings with it! Maas freely admits that previous books she’d written were effectively publicity for the agency she worked for, but this time, she was free to write much more freely.

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