Marketing & Women’s History Month: How Women Shaped Modern Marketing
Marketing and advertising have long been seen as a “Playboy’s club.” Consider depictions like the womanizing Don Draper of Mad Men and the sexist stereotypes or hypersexualization of women constantly reinforced in advertising.
Yet with nearly 80% of purchases and purchase influence made by women, you’d think it makes more sense to see women behind marketing campaigns.
And in fact, women indeed have a long history in the marketing industry, dating as far back as 1880. As we celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day (March 8) at Champ, we take a look back at the incredible achievements made by women that ultimately allow us to be here today.
How Women Changed the Approach to Advertising
Arguably the most important contribution to modern marketing was from the Women’s Editorial Department at the J. Walter Thompson agency.
This agency was considered the pioneer of American advertising for most of the 20th century and is credited with the development of print, radio, and television advertising. They were pivotal in turning brands like Kodak, Ford, Kraft, and others into the cultural icons they are today.
In around 1910, J. Walter Thompson introduced an all-female team of copywriters, known as the Women’s Editorial Department, led by Helen Lansdowne Resor who is considered to be the first female copywriter.
Resor’s skilled team is famed for its attention to demographic lifestyle trends and ultimately set the tone for modern-day copywriting. Prior to the Women’s Editorial Department’s work, marketing campaigns consisted of straightforward descriptions of products.
For instance, a soap bar advertisement might simply say “Keep your hands clean with this soap that promotes softness with a delicate scent.”
However, the Women’s Editorial Department took a more emotional approach by tapping into buyer psychology. Rather than only describing the product, they connected each brand with an aspirational feeling, whether that was ideal beauty, social status romance, or something more.
Most notably, Resor and her team created the “A skin you love to touch” ad for Woodbury in 1917. It was the first ad of its time that leveraged sex appeal to sell a product – something we now see everywhere today.
By 1918, the women’s department accounted for more than half of the entire agency’s earnings – more than $2.2M out of a total of $3.9M – at a time when J. Walter Thompson was considered the single leading ad agency in the United States.
Talk about women making history, huh?
Breaking More than Glass Ceilings
Of course, we can’t celebrate women’s history without accounting for women of color. Caroline Robins Jones was a powerhouse of her time, shooting to fame for her work despite the gender and racial barriers that she faced.
She was the first Black senior copywriter at J. Walter Thompson and eventually left to focus her efforts on Black-owned ad agencies. She went on to become the first Black female Vice President of a major marketing agency and later, helped launch several Black-owned ad agencies, along with her own.
Jones was known for her unique insight into consumer preferences. Her work was pivotal in changing perceptions about brands that are now iconic today, such as American Express, Anheuser-Busch, McDonald’s, Prudential, Toys ”R” Us, and the Postal Service.
In fact, she is credited with coming up with Kentucky Fried Chicken’s “We Do Chicken Right” slogan.
Caroline Jones’ lasting impact was in pushing for African American representation in marketing campaigns. She worked with her clients to advocate for using demographic-specific ads targeted at Black consumers for national, and even global, market campaigns.
In 1994, she made a call to action that many of us are still advocating for today: “We have to pressure the ad industry to change the product we put out, which is our ads, to be more inclusive of people of color and different cultures.”
Sadly, Jones is one of the only women in marketing history with her level of impact to not be inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame – likely due to her race.
The Women at CHAMP
Thanks to women like Helen Lansdowne Resor and Caroline Robins Jones (among many others), our own full-service digital marketing agency is packed with trailblazing women whom we are proud to call our colleagues. In fact, Champ is a 53+% female-identifying workforce.
From leadership positions all the way to copywriters and contractors, Champ continues to uplift our team of incredible employees. In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, here are some of the amazing women behind Champ:
Josefine, Co-Founder & Managing Partner
“Women have been trying to drive change in the workplace for decades with movements like Women’s Rights and #MeToo, and now we are actively seeing female entrepreneurs and executives step up to the plate. I’m proud to be working with so many amazing and talented women.”
Kavya Sebastian, Content Marketing Manager
“The team at CHAMP thrives because we all look out for each other, both personally and professionally. It’s such an honor to be a part of such a tight-knit group and have incredible, strong women on the team to lead us and work with. The past year has shown me that some of the best and most creative minds are in this space and I love that so many of them are women!”
Lannan O’Brien, Freelance Content Marketer
“It’s heartening to see women at the helm of new businesses across the country in different industries, and to write for one where women are represented and supported so strongly.”
Becky Ankeny, Freelance Graphic Designer
“I have had strong, smart, and creative female bosses and art directors in my life that have shaped who I am as a graphic designer since I started in the 90s. Now I’m my own boss, as a freelance designer, working remote with a talented team of women at CHAMP.”
Gladys Rivera, Controller
“Happy Women’s Month! As a businesswoman and mother, I am always looking for ways to take care of and balance work and family. Seeing other women thrive is my inspiration. Every day, I learn and become inspired by these powerful women from the past, present, and future who are not only successful but also talented, passionate, and dedicated. I’m happy and excited to be part of our team at CHAMP.”
Tracy Altman, Senior Account Manager
“I am so happy to be a part of the CHAMP team! My background has allowed me to grow as a strong female leader. I pride myself on being a meaningful part of the female pioneers in the business world. I look forward to thriving and helping others succeed through my passion to be a thought partner, collaborator, and specialist in this ever-evolving industry.”
Oceanna O’Donnell, Director of Client Services
“Happy Women’s Month! Women are amazing creatures and we really need to celebrate women each and every day and appreciate the journey we have taken. I feel so grateful to be a woman in this place in time and to see all that has changed since my grandmother’s generation. I give so much thanks and love to all the women before us who have paved the way to a better time and future for our daughters. Being a mom and full-time employee (especially during a pandemic!) is all about finding balance. Amazing to see so many women leading the way in this space. I give so much gratitude to my team and am blessed to get to work with so many talented and uplifting women!”
Hayley Malloy, Technical Strategy Manager
“I’m so proud to work with such dedicated, talented, and hard-working women. CHAMP understands that we cannot grow without raising each other up and valuing a diversity of perspectives.”
Cristina Consalvo, Marketing Director
“I’m proud to be a woman in a corporate role. I appreciate the progress that so many women have contributed to and feel honored to be a part of that history – paving the way for the future generations. Women deserve so much credit! I’m happy that CHAMP recognizes the positive impact that we have on the business world.”
Haley Rose, Account Manager
“I am truly blown away by the passion and talent of the women that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Each day I am motivated and proud to work alongside so many brilliant women at CHAMP. And I am forever grateful to all of the women before me who worked hard to make this profession a possibility. May we all continue to learn, grow and flourish together.”
Sam Silverman, Director of Operations
“Nothing bothers me more than when systems cause women to second guess their own capabilities. At CHAMP, we push for a positive culture in which women feel supported and valued for their success. All of the women working here are skilled strategists whose value will never be questioned by our colleagues. We’re about fixing bias, not women.”
Brittany Govednik, Account Manager
“Working alongside these incredible women has shown me the true power of collaboration and respect. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from and grow with such talented and inspiring colleagues.”
Eilish Boyd, Email & SMS Marketing Manager
“I am proud to celebrate the talented and strong women I have the privilege of working with. These women are at the top of their industry, breaking barriers and shattering glass ceilings in ways that inspire and empower me every day. So here’s to all the amazing women out there – may we continue to lift each other up, support one another, and fight for a world where every woman has the opportunity to reach her full potential. Happy International Women’s Month!”
Isabella DeChard, SEO Associate
“I admire and appreciate the generations of women before us who have been daring leaders, innovative thinkers, and defied rules and obstacles. I’m honored to share this space with empowering women in a thriving community, and proud to work at CHAMP where this representation is welcomed with open arms!”
Lahari Tanner, Intern
“Happy Women’s month! I’m so proud of all the women that I currently work with and wish them nothing but the best 🙂 It’s been an amazing experience and I learn something new every single day! Thank you to the women who came before us and paved the path for us to do amazing and innovative things, and to the ones who will come after us and inevitably accomplish great feats.”
Anandini Sekher, Sr. Account Manager
“Coming back to work after 8 years of raising kids was daunting, but the environment at CHAMP made it such a worthwhile experience that I am still here 7 years later. The women I work with are truly passionate about what they do and we push ourselves and each other to drive harder, work smarter and provide amazing service. The flexibility and support I have been given as a working mom has made it possible for me to jump back into my career without the struggles I expected (though as any mom knows, struggles will always exist with balancing these worlds). Being a woman of color, I appreciate being amongst colleagues that value and highly respect my uniquely diverse background and point of view.”
Brooke Christensen, Director of Resource Management
“Working alongside women who contribute, speak-up, and deliver fantastic work is an absolute pleasure. I also appreciate working for a company that provides equal opportunities in addition to an incredible culture that includes everyone.”