Remembering Advertising Legend (and My Friend) Jane Maas

By Thought Leaders Archives
Cover image for  article: Remembering Advertising Legend (and My Friend) Jane Maas

Simply put, Jane Maas took a chance on me and changed my life.  I met her in the early 1980's when I was leading WPIX's Promotion Department in New York.  She was the first woman president of a major advertising agency not founded by a woman.  Some of the agency's broadcast clients had asked her to hire an account supervisor who understood the dynamics of the local station marketplace.  She hired me despite the misgivings of one of the agency partners, Andy Weiss, who welcomed me on day one with: "You're not an ad gal yet, but we'll make you into one."  Of course, I bristled at that assessment, but Andy was right.  That's because I hadn't yet been trained by Jane. 

As a fledgling account supervisor earning her MBA at the "Jane Maas School of Marketing" I quickly learned the ropes.  She was a font of knowledge and I soaked it up.  Always a trailblazer, Jane was a brilliant brand strategist, naturally "high IQ" and gifted at plucking "info morsels" -- a precursor to today's infographics -- from qualitative and quantitative research; not to slavishly follow, but as valuable insights from the customer POV.  We began every research project with a foundational analysis of "what we know, what we think we know, what we need to find out."

As agency president, Jane began every morning demonstrating management by walking around.  Our offices took up an entire floor and she would drop into work areas for a listening tour of what we were working on, issues we were facing and -- perhaps most important -- how the members of the team were doing overall.  She genuinely cared about people at every level throughout her life.  The phrase wasn't widely used at the time, but she also embodied "high EQ" or emotional intelligence.  It was a key to Jane's lifelong personal and professional success.  It wasn't only whatJane did, it was howshe did everything.

Through the years, Jane and I partnered on many marketing challenges, including messaging Discovery Communications brands (such as Discovery, TLC and Animal Planet), launching Hallmark Channel worldwide and re-branding History Channel to bring new generations of viewers into the tent.  Jane had an incredible work ethic and was the poster child for mind over matter.  Every night before she left the office she made a list of the next day's tasks.  And unfailingly, she completed them all, including writing multiple books with a target word count per day.  When Jane decided to accomplish something, she broke it down into achievable phases and made it happen.

No task was too small.  Some members of my former senior team at Discovery were recently recalling the experience of having Jane with us at the annual NEA convention.  There she was, an advertising legend stuffing tote bags, handing out leaflets and manning Assignment Discovery's booth non-stop, always with that warm smile and inquisitive persona, seeking insights that would help inform our strategy and creative.

While never one to demand "the stage," Jane commanded it when given the opportunity.  She was a fabulous public speaker.  She had that ability to connect with each person in her audience and never read from a script.  In one of her many life lessons to me, she decided that I needed more public speaking experience.  So, she arranged an AWNY panel session that included me, along with a couple other speakers, and stacked the small audience with clients and longtime friends.  I was clinging to my piece of paper with notes and refused to part with it during run-throughs in her office.

At the event, Jane introduced me and as I passed her en route to the podium -- she snatched my notes!  I was horrified.  She whispered: "They don't know what's on your paper.  Just talk about the important things you remember."  And then she smiled.

It was obvious she wasn't going to give them back, so I marched up to the podium, made eye contact with friendly faces in the audience and spoke from the heart (including opening with "Jane stole my notes!")  It was a lesson I never forgot.  She was right, as always.

Jane … teacher, trailblazer, role model, marketing partner and most of all,friend ... you will be missed.  I can hear it now: "St. Peter, dear, help me understand.  What are you trying to accomplish up here?"  She has probably given him a strategy and a plan to make it happen.

Photo at top from the 5th Annual "Women to Watch" Advertising Awards Luncheon, July 25, 2001.  Photo credit: Gabe Palacio/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images, courtesy of Chris Moseley.

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