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Lessons From a Real-Life 'Mad Woman'

  |  October 25, 2011   |  Comments

Wisdom from advertising legend Jane Maas.

At the Association of National Advertisers Annual Conference in Phoenix, AZ, I had the amazing honor and pleasure of seeing Jane Maas. I was truly moved and amazed by her talk and inspired by her life. Why was I so blown away from hearing Jane speak? Well, she's 79 years old, traveled all the way from New York to Arizona to share her wisdom, and demonstrated a rare level of passion and authority.

jane-maasWhat's more, everything she said about effective advertising is as true today, in the high engagement digital marketing environment I work in, as the traditional media world she started out in 1964. Her wisdom and approach is timeless and much of what she said has proved out time and time again in the online tests we do on banners, search ads, and landing pages. And I wanted to share some of these nuggets of wisdom.

First, some background about Jane Maas, the real life embodiment of Peggy Olson, a character in "Mad Men." Jane ascended through the ranks of the 1960s' ad world to become a creative director, starting her career as a copywriter at Ogilvy & Mather in 1964 and working directly for David Ogilvy. There she rose to creative director working for General Foods, Lever Brothers, S.C. Johnson, and American Express. In 1976 she moved to Wells Rich Greene where she was the creative force behind the iconic "I Love New York" campaign. From there she became president of the New York office of Earle Palmer Brown.

mad-womenJane is also an accomplished author. Her books include her biography, "Adventures of An Advertising Woman," and "How to Advertise," which has been translated into 17 languages. She is publishing "Mad Women: The Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the '60s and Beyond." Jane serves as chairman emeritus to Earle Palmer Brown advertising and public relations and consults for major corporations. So clearly Jane knows a lot about advertising and life.

So now for some of her nuggets of wisdom mixed with her elements of effective communication. Her advice is truly timeless and applies to all creative.

  • "As a client, make sure your creative team says I get it." She added, "Sit across the table from your whole creative team face to face and present the brief to them."
  • Ads must "make them lean forward." (What she meant by that was good creative made people pay attention - it literally made them lean forward.)
  • Ads must "deliver the key consumer benefit clearly" and "it must be the takeaway from the advertisement." (Now this is something I say all the time: your creative must immediately answer the question, "How is this going to help me?")
  • Ads must be "attention getting - intrusive in a positive sense." To this she added, "Your creative has got to get people by the jugular!"
  • Ads must be "single minded." She added, "Getting one idea across these days is hard enough, two ideas extremely difficult, and three is impossible." (Ever try and back more than one idea into a banner or landing page? Effectiveness goes down!)
  • Ads must be simple. "Don't ask consumers to work because they won't." (Now this is my favorite one. So many online applications, games, forms, and other user experiences are just too hard. So many messages force you to think too hard to understand it.)
  • Good creative must be relevant. (What she meant is that creative must matter to the audience. It can't just be funny or look good.) She added that ads that are not relevant or seek to be too clever can anger people. "Consumers feel cheated if they read your ad and think it's for a car and it turns out to be for peanut butter," she said.
  • Communications must be memorable. "Does the communication have stickiness? Will the target audience remember it tomorrow? Next week? Next month?" (Think about this: Can you remember any banners you have seen? I remember very few. This is a problem with our medium. So little online advertising is memorable. It drives action, but does anyone remember it? This needs fixing in a big way!)
  • A good message is unique or pre-emptive. (Basically what she was saying here was to be the first to own a space. And, it is much easier to own a space if you are first.) She added, "Say it first, say it better, and say it louder and longer."
  • Ads must engage by being "emotional, educational, or entertaining." (Gee, from a traditional brand marketer, this sounds a lot like what online marketers are always saying.)
  • Ideas should be "campaignable." She asked, "Does it work in many forms of media? Does it have longevity?"

What really struck me about her advice is that it is media agnostic. And while her advice was about brand building, it is still the kind of best practices that would make even the most direct marketing/response driven/measurable online programs perform.

Thank you, Jane, for this knowledge!

Oh, one more thing. The first chapter of Jane's new book is titled, "Sex in the Office." She took our cards and said she would email it to all of us. I cannot wait to read it.

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Harry Gold

As founder and CEO of Overdrive, Harry Gold is the architect and conductor behind the company's ROI-driven programs. His primary mission is to create innovative marketing programs based on real-world success and to ensure the marketing and technology practices that drive those successes are continually institutionalized into the culture and methods of the agency. What excites him is the knowledge that Overdrive's collaborative environment has created a company of online media, SEM, and online behavioral experts who drive success for the clients and companies they serve. Overdrive serves a diverse base of B2B and B2C clients that demand a high level of accountability and ROI from their online programs and campaigns.

Harry started his career in 1995 when he founded online marketing firm Interactive Promotions, serving such clients as Microsoft, "The Financial Times," the Hard Rock Cafe, and the City of Boston. Since then, he has been at the forefront of online branding and channel creation, developing successful Web and search engine-based marketing programs for various agencies and Fortune 500 companies.

Harry is a frequent lecturer on SEM and online media for The New England Direct Marketing Association; Ad Club; the University of Massachusetts, Boston; Harvard University; and Boston University.

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