Advertise Like a Girl

4 min read

For the past few weeks, we have highlighted a few of the amazing women of advertising on Facebook and Instagram in honor of Women’s History Month. These are the ladies who inspire us. Who challenge us. Who paved the way and made history in an industry we love.

In case you missed any of our posts, here is a recap:

Nora Ephron may not technically be a woman of advertising, but she was an observant (and sometimes brutally honest) journalist in the 70s, when women weren’t exactly welcome in the newsroom. Plus her refreshingly authentic approach to first-person narrative changed the way Senior Account Executive Lucy Smith read books and wrote for her clients.

Kat Gordon is my ad woman crush. In 2012 she founded the 3% Movement to get more women in creative director roles. And it’s working. In the five years since the first annual 3% Conference, the percentage of women CDs has risen to 11%. Most recently, the Movement created a 3% Certified program for agencies that want to send a signal to talented women—we value you. I’m working on the paperwork now, Kat.

In the 1950s, Grace Hopper developed a compiler that translated words into code that was readable by computers. This invention was the precursor to the Common Business Oriented Language or COBOL, the first language of programming used around the world. In other words, Hopper’s invention made it possible to “talk” to computers instead of using 1s and 0s and earned her the title “Queen of Software.”

Just out of college in the 1960s, Caroline Jones was the first African American copywriter at J. Walter Thompson. While she routinely struggled against the perception that her ad campaigns were only for African-American audiences, Jones proved time and again that good advertising is universal, turning out national brand slogans for KFC, Campbell’s Soup, and more.

Helen Landsdowne Resore, who was quite possibly the first female copywriter for an agency, went from writing about Crisco vegetable shortening in the early 1900s to being the first person to use sex appeal to sell a product. By the time she retired, the agency she helped found had grown to a staff of 7,000, with 57 offices in 23 countries.

Diedre Latour, one of the elites in modern corporate PR, isn’t afraid to take risks. Last year, she even encouraged GE to stand up to presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Her willingness to advise the various CEOs to always do the right thing is one of the reasons our PR maven Christy Glesing admires her. There’s also the “poise, panache, and leadership” as PR Week noted. Plus she wasn’t afraid to wear the Tony the Tiger costume in her early days. What’s not to love?

Betsy Ann Plank is often called the “First Lady of PR” and for good reason. Not only did Plank do great work, she co-founded the Public Relations Student Society of America and is credited with creating the modern-day public relations curriculum. The PRSA scholarship fund in her name helps students continue to learn at more than 40 colleges and universities.

New York Magazine referred to Phyllis Robinson as the “original Mad Woman.” She really was an original, breaking the gender stereotypes of the time with her frank opinions and ability to recognize talent. Her peers called her the “first great modern advertising writer,” and for good reason. She was the among the first to write the way people really talked, an approach many today take for granted.

Paula Scher from Pentagram, a trailblazing graphic designer, painter, and art educator, who combines typography and super-saturated imagery in a whole new way. As our Associate Creative Director, Amy McAdams Gonzales, says, “Paula is the ultimate bad-ass (female) designer.”

Astrid Stavro creates the fonts other graphic designers go gaga over. She may be best known for her Grid Notebooks and Shelving Units, but everything she touches applies typography in a way that transcends borders.

When we started this project, Ken Honeywell said, “As long as you include Mary Wells.” How could we not?  You may not know her name, but you probably recognize some of the slogans she and her teams created—I ❤ New York,” “Quality is Job 1,” and “Plop Plop, Fizz Fizz.” She was a one-of-a-kind copywriter and agency owner, raising the standards of originality in her work and insisting on a culture of community service in her agency. We’re trying to live up to her example every day.

We know these are only some of the women who made advertising history. Share your idol in the comments. Be an amazing woman of advertising yourself. Mentor one on her way there. And please support all the amazing women in your agency, your marketing department, and your creative boutique and coffee shops. (And in your banks, drive-throughs, and grocery stores. But that’s another blog for another time.)


(Image from the Always “Like A Girl” campaign)