Happy Women’s History Month!
March is the month when we acknowledge and honor the great contributions that women have given our society. Specifically in marketing and advertising, women have broken through glass ceilings and pushed down concrete walls to get to where they are. Every day, women bring valuable expertise. We at PACO are proud to say that our team is 70% female with women represented in every aspect of the company, particularly senior leadership. As the month closes, we want to look at some women who have positively impacted our industry.
The history of women in advertising and marketing can be traced as far back as 1880 with Mathilde C. Weil starting the M.C. Weil Agency. Although she is rarely credited, she started her agency years before J. Walter Thompson started J. Walter Thompson Co., which is widely considered the first advertising firm.
Historically, women served as copywriters. According to the Ad Age article FORGET PEGGY OLSON: MAD WOMEN MADE THEIR MARK LONG BEFORE THE ’60S, “Most advertisers believed that women could do a better job selling to female consumers than men because they possessed a ‘female viewpoint.’ So, many agencies started hiring women as copywriters to speak for and to female consumers.” If you have ever seen an episode of Mad Men, you know that for far too long discriminatory practices placed men as the gatekeepers who sometimes kept talented and qualified women from being able to climb the ranks. While women have always been used as the face of brands to make products appear more desirable, allowing them to have executive agency positions has not always been as common.
More and more we are starting to realize that having distinct diverse voices at the table means a variety of perspectives are represented. Ultimately, we all benefit from these inclusive practices. As of 2018, the marketing industry is 67% women. Pulling a line from a Christina Aguilera song, “Nobody can hold us down!” Considering that women account for about 70 – 80 % of consumer purchasing, it would be in the best interest of companies and advertisers if women feel that they are understood and represented. It is for this reason that we celebrate the pioneering women below. These women managed to kick down the doors of discrimination and find their place in the industry. They added cultural lenses and female voices to an industry that had largely been dominated by white males.
Erma was the first woman who was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame in 1952. She is most known for her work at Gardner Advertising Company of St. Louis. There she served as a successful copywriter, account executive, director, creative vice president, and executive vice president. She served as the president of the Women’s Advertising Club of St. Louis and was also chairman of the Advertising Federation of America. She created a successful radio broadcast for PET milk where she provided economic cooking tips and recipes. Her recipes with evaporated milk really spoke to women during the Depression who were trying to find creative ways to use canned goods. Her successful segment ran for over 20 years.
Sara is known for creating space for Latino voices by advertising both in Spanish and English. A Cuban immigrant who worked in the advertising industry from the 1960s – 1990s, she started as a copywriter and was known for keeping a dictionary by her desk to help her formulate the perfect messages. She knew that there was a value in speaking to Latinos in language. It wasn’t enough to simply translate from English to Spanish. She was one of the first to create bilingual ads which quickly demonstrated the buying power of the Latino community. Sara co-founded Spanish Advertising and Marketing Services, the nation’s first Latino ad agency. Her work led her to earn the first Clio award given to a Latino-owned agency.
Caroline was one of the first women to manage an advertising firm focused on minority advertising. She began her advertising career in 1963 in New York as a secretary and copywriter trainee at J. Walter Thompson. There she rose to creative director. In 1968 she was instrumental in starting the Zebra agency, the only agency in the United States with a leadership team that was entirely Black. Over the years, she held positions at several agencies and eventually founded the Black Creative Group and Mingo, Jones, Guilmenot, later Mingo-Jones Advertising (now the Chisholm-Mingo Group), and Caroline Jones Advertising. Throughout her career, she prioritized African American representation both in ads and behind the scenes. She felt it was important that advertising be seen through a cultural lens and often challenged companies to look at smaller companies that specialized in multicultural marketing as opposed to larger firms that claimed they had multicultural departments.
Like the women above, we at PACO know that inclusive marketing is nuanced: We understand culture matters and it motivates people to act, spend, and share. These ladies knew the value of representation. Their unique perspective, not only as women, but in the case of Sara and Caroline, as women of color, illustrates the importance of amplifying and highlighting intersectional stories.
As the country becomes more diverse, it is important that we keep running down the roads that these women paved. Distinct language that speaks directly to your intended audience is so important. At PACO, we strive to create these types of messages every day. We feel that we have a responsibility to be champions of inclusive marketing and advertising.
Happy Women’s History Month! May we all continue the spirit of these trailblazers. The impact of these women shouldn’t only be celebrated during March, but always.