According to employment data in the United States, 52.5% of employees in advertising and public relations-related service industries were women. But even with this majority, women in the industry have historically not been highlighted for their contributions.
In honor of Women’s History Month, Plan B wants to spotlight influential females in advertising to ensure their stories are told, and they are recognized for their impact on the industry we have today.
Mary Wells Lawrence
Mary Wells Lawrence reinvented the advertising industry and became a powerful role model for future female creatives. With a background in theater and through her philosophy of “selling dreams,” she introduced more cinematic techniques into TV advertising making commercials more dramatic and entertaining. At the time, OTC drug advertising was known for concentrating on only resolving symptoms while Mary’s work for brands like Alka-Seltzer was more edgy because it focused on entertainment and generated an amusing persona for the product through the use of lively music and a successful jingle.
Some of Mary’s most well-known work includes “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is,” “I ❤ New York!,” and “Flick your Bic.” As a result of her work in OTC drug advertising, automobile advertising, and airline advertising, Mary revolutionized the advertising industry paving the way for women to excel in a male-dominated industry.
Caroline Robinson Jones
Caroline Jones broke gender and racial barriers through her work in the advertising industry. From her achievement of becoming the first African-American copywriter at a major ad firm in 1963, to the struggles she faced there from white copywriters not offering her assistance, Caroline found success with her work even though it was self-taught.
Her other notable achievements include her work for brands such as Anheuser-Busch and Goodyear, being the first African-American Woman VP of a major ad firm – BBDO, 1977 – and becoming the first African American woman to found her own agency – CarolineJones Advertising, 1986.
Caroline was also known for bringing an emotional connection to her work. While working for Campbell’s Soup, she insisted that the company’s advertising should focus more on people’s emotions rather than spotlighting products. From implementing these changes to create advertising with more of an emotional connection, to her efforts to make advertising firms and content more inclusive and representative of minorities, Caroline was a trailblazer in the industry whose story deserves to be honored.
Advertising Age named Jane one of the “100 Most Influential Women in Advertising,” and even referred to her as “the real Peggy Olson, right out of ‘Mad Men.’” While Jane experienced the testosterone-driven advertising industry of the 1960s and ‘70s and even claimed it to be like the television show at times, she referred to herself as “relentlessly cheerful,” unlike most of the fictional men and women in “Mad Men.”
Some of Jane’s most famous work was created in 1977, where she was the senior vice president at Wells Rich Greene, and was accredited with shepherding one of the most successful tourism campaigns ever – “I ❤ New York.” This campaign was such a success because of the impact it had on helping to revive the city after it flirted with bankruptcy and had developed a worsening reputation for crime.
Jane once wrote, “Lots of men say they are the father of ‘I Love New York, but I am its only mother. Mary Wells Lawrence was the godmother, of course.” This quote is a memorable one because it reveals how hidden women in advertising had been even after their contributions created so much success in the industry. Jane’s work in the industry paved the way for more females to become accredited for their impact on the industry which is why her story is an important one to share
Bernice Chao is the Head of Integrated Creative at Zambezi, an author, speaker, professor, podcast host, and co-founder of the non-profit @asiansinadvertising. From being awarded 2023’s working mother of the year to her induction into the American Advertising Federation’s Hall of Fame in 2022, Chao is the embodiment of an empowering and influential Asian-American woman in advertising.
Bernice has worked on notable clients such as Google, Airbnb, Uber, Netflix, Amazon Studios, and HBO, and aims to create a real purpose for brands when connecting with their audiences because she believes in the power of using creativity for good.
Her other notable work includes the #1 Amazon Bestseller: “The Visibility Mindset,” which is a book she co-wrote to address the career gap for Asian-Americans in the workplace, but also to guide the Asia-American community and allies on overcoming barriers and finding success in the workplace. Bernice is a modern-day trailblazer in advertising because of her work to empower and inform allies of the Asian-American community to make an impact on the industry.
In all, Plan B believes in the importance of highlighting influential and impactful women in the marketing and advertising industry so that we can bring to light the often untold stories of the behind-the-scenes work females have done to shape the world we live in today.
Learn more about influential women in the advertising and marketing industry when you check out our socials @thisisplanb!