“I’ve always believed that one woman’s success can only help another woman’s success.”
― Gloria Vanderbilt, “It Seemed Important at the Time: A Romance Memoir”
The world of marketing is a ruthless one. Whenever we imagine it, we visualize smart and ambitious men clamoring for the top. Many of us can’t even fathom a woman making it in marketing. To be honest, women had to overcome a lot to make their mark in the marketing industry. However, this was not because of any lack of intelligence or ambitions. It was purely due to the gender discrimination that has been prevalent in all sectors of life. Though overcome it, they did. Today, more than half of the people working in advertising, public relations, and other marketing-related sectors identify as women. Most of the people at the top are now successful girl bosses. Many amazing women came before them, to pave the way.
Let us take a moment and reminisce about some of the female pioneers in the cut-throat world of marketing.
Mathilde C. Weil
Mathilde C. Weil established the M.C. Weil Agency in 1880. Though forgotten by many, Weil’s firm was the first ad agency ever. Yes, you heard that right. M.C. Weil Agency was established years before J. Walter Thompson, the person credited to open the first ad agency by many, came up with his own company. Mathilde C. Weil was a talented woman fluent in German, English, Spanish, and French. She was so passionate about her vocation that she pursued it throughout her life. Weil partnered with Mary Compton and Meta Volkman to help her with her numerous clients. M.C. Weil Agency was in essence a solely female-run firm that broke many barriers and enjoyed an unprecedented successful run. Weil did this all forty years before American women even had the right to vote. Indeed, she was a lady of a kind. Though largely forgotten by people today, Mathilde C. Weil is a true pioneer in the marketing industry.
Despite it being a woman, who first opened an ad agency, females were given little importance in the industry for a long time. They were not allowed in men’s advertising clubs, keeping them from making meaningful connections and profitable professional relationships. Christine Frederick had had enough of this. Along with her husband, J. George Frederick, she founded the League of Advertising Women in 1912. The League of Advertising Women opened up vast avenues for the female advertisers in New York. Today, known as She Runs, Christine’s organization still helps women in their pursuit of success in advertising, marketing, and other related fields.
Helen Bayless Lansdowne-Resor
Helen Bayless Lansdowne-Resor was a woman o many firsts. She was America’s first copywriter. J. Walter Thompson ensured his agency’s success when he hired her. Lansdowne-Resor was the one who devised the editorial style advertising. Her ad tactics are still popular today. Lansdowne-Resor designed national brand advertising campaigns and was the first woman to introduce sex appeals in ads. Her slogan, A skin you love to touch, which she came up with in 1911 for an ad campaign for the Woodbury Soap was so popular that Woodbury continued using it till the 1940s. Lansdowne-Resor was an inspiration for women and worked for their advancement throughout her life. Under her leadership, her agency became notable for being a hub of talented women. It was her and her team’s efforts that motivated millions of women to join the workforce during WWI. The campaign titled Women must work in the war inspired more than 3 million women to start their professional careers. Lansdowne-Resor was a strong believer in creativity and innovation in ads. A strong voice in the advertising world, Lansdowne-Resor was posthumously inducted into the Advertising Federation Hall of Fame in 1967.
Bernice Bowles Fitz-Gibbon
Bernice Bowles Fitz-Gibbon was an insanely talented woman. She was the first lady who started her own successful ad agency in the modern world. After successful stints at Macy’s and Gimbels, she established her own marketing firm. Fitz-Gibbon made a name for herself through her catchy slogans. Macy’s It’s smart to be thrifty and Gimbels’ Nobody, but nobody, undersells Gimbels are all her creations. In the 1950s, she was presumed to be the highest-paid woman in advertising. However, she did not stop at breaking the glass ceiling. Bernice Bowles Fitz-Gibbon gave opportunities to and trained a multitude of female copywriters. Indeed, she is an inspiration to all of us.
Herta Herzog was instrumental in setting up the first think tank of the marketing industry. In 1964, Jack Tinker & Partners was established. Here, Herzog developed various qualitative marketing research techniques. Many of these techniques, including the use of focus groups, are widely in use even today. Herzog pioneered marketing research. She dedicated herself to finding out how advertising affected the general population. It was Herta Herzog who concluded that advertising was best suited to cater to the existing needs of the audience instead of changing their perspective completely.
Barbara Gardner Proctor
Barbara Proctor was the first black female to own an advertising agency. Proctor started off as a copywriter with a strong moral sense. She was fired from the agency when she vehemently refused to mock the Civil Rights Movement in order to promote hair care products. This did not keep her down. Proctor promptly started her own successful agency. Throughout her long career, she made sure to never create an ad that would adversely affect women and people of color. This amazing woman was featured on 60 Minutes. Ronald Reagan also mentioned Barbara Gardner Procter in his State Address in 1984.
Mary Wells Lawrence
May Wells Lawrence started her own agency, Wells, Rich and Green Inc. (WRG), after gaining valuable experience while working at Macy’s, McCann-Erickson, Inc., and Doyle Dane Bernbach. WRG achieved a lot of success and went public in 1968. Lawrence became the chairman of the board and the CEO of the company. This made her the first woman to be the CEO of her own company. WRG was also the first agency with a female CEO to be featured on the New York Stock Exchange. She became the Advertising Woman of the year in 1971 and was inducted into the Advertising Federation Hall of Fame in 1999.
The marketing industry plays a crucial role in forming the psyche of society. People tend to form opinions on the basis of the ads that they see on a daily basis. Naturally, marketing campaigns upholding morality and projecting diversity can go a long way in bringing positive change in society. Women in marketing, with their intuitiveness, are a strong influence in breaking stereotypes and bringing innovation to the industry.
Do comment and let me know your thoughts on the girl bosses in the marketing industry.
One thought on “Trailblazers: Female Pioneers in Marketing”
These are all admirable ladies, but my favorite one was Barbara Gardner Proctor. It takes a lot of courage to stand up for what you believe.