Madison Avenue isn’t just made up of Mad Men.Women have had a hand in creating some of the most iconic ads in America, from the Alfac Duck to Old Spice’s “man your man could smell like” to Allstate’s Mayhem. And yet they only make up 3 per cent of creative directors industry-wide.
These paltry numbers inspired us to showcase the most creative women in advertising in the U.S.
We asked agency folks to nominate the women that make their shops shine, as well as the women they admire from afar. Using those nominations combined with our own research, we selected the 33 female creatives that wow us the most. Our rankings are based on a combination of creative work, seniority in the industry, size of the shops (and clients) they work for, and ability to keep making interesting pieces.
While it’s encouraging to see this many truly talented women, there was a lack of nominees who were not Caucasian. The ad world still has a ways to go.
For more information about the gender divide in advertising, check out Kat Gordon’s 3 per cent Conference.
If you think that we missed a talented woman in advertising, let us know in the comments.
Rotman used to work at Saatchi & Saatchi, which she refers to as 'The Death Star,' before deciding to strike out on her own and create MODCo or 'My Own Damn Company' 11 years ago.
Rotman, who literally has 'Boss Lady' on her card, leads the creative force that deals with high profile, luxury clients. Some of her most recognisable work was for Tory Burch: She designed the iconic Tory Burch logo, the original store design, and the packaging. Rotman has also created the brand images for Vera Wang, Zales, Kohl's, and David's Bridal.
Grubbs' first ad job was at Team One as a junior copy editor five and a half years ago, and she worked her way up to associate creative director.
According to colleagues, Grubbs is all about 'hard-to-pull-off' ideas, and she has focused on social and technologically innovative campaigns.
Grubbs has done a lot of work for Lexus. She has used the sound of the Lexus LFA to break a champagne glass, and used a Lexus IS to play a beat by driving around a precision course lined with drums. She also used CinePrint technology to make one of our favourite tablet ads of 2011.
Stone runs a small but impressive, female-only creative shop that specialises in a crucial part of what makes an ad work: the music.
Tonic has scored the soundtrack for Axe and BBH's ad 'Even Angels Will Fall,' which won the Cannes Grand Prix Creative Effectiveness Award. It has also done work with Zales, Christian Dior, and the music for the famous Cravendale Cats spot.
Sigers got into the ad game very early in life -- she sold her first ad to Lawson's Cleaners when she was only in the fifth grade. After graduating from Northwestern, she decided to join the industry.
Sigers was named the youngest creative director ever appointed at Burrell Communications, where she did work for Coca-Cola, General Mills, Verizon, Allstate, McDonald's, and more.
She then joined Sanders/Wingo in 2006 to help expand its multicultural creative work. Since then, she has worked on Chevrolet, MINI, Burger King, and AT&T.
Although she's now a freelancer, Neumann has worked at Saatchi, Y&R, W+K, and BBH.
And her copy, which has won awards for both television and radio, speaks for itself.
While at Saatchi, shortly after graduating from Miami Ad School, Neumann helped write Head and Shoulders' 'Bigger Problems' campaign. She was also the copywriter of Land Rover's hilarious 'you'll feel safe inside' campaign for Y&R. (See next slide for ad.)
Atvara is a perfect example of old meets new advertising.
15 years ago, only three years after moving to California to study art in Humboldt county from Latvia, Atvara co-founded Digitaria with Daniel Khabie. The digital ad shop was ahead of its time, doing online advertising in the 1990s and creating internet identities for brands that wanted to get involved in the dotcom world. It was bought by JWT in 2010.
Atvara has been placed on various women to watch lists and has done recent notable work for Pixar, Taylor Guitars, and Invisible Children's LRA Crisis Tracker. She also recently did Petco's gamification work on Facebook.
Diaz will be forever grateful for the day when her father brought home a used video camera instead of a Barbie doll.
Two decades later, she is making ads for brands including Google, JCPenney, eBay, Slim Jim, and Almay.
She even had a moment in the limelight when she starred and wrote a spot for U by Kotex. The spot, which now has more than one million views on YouTube, called out how absolutely ridiculous most tampon ads are: from the puppies to the dancing to the blue liquid.
Diaz wrote and acted in the first spot in Kotex's tongue-in-cheek campaign that talks about how ridiculous tampon ads are. It reached more than 1 million views on YouTube.
If you liked the Land Rover 'liar' spot, written by Julia Neumann, then you can also thank Keenan too, since she was the creative director on the campaign. Colleagues who nominated her described Keenan as an 'absolute powerhouse.'
In the last 20 years, Keenan worked at BBDO, Leo Burnett, BBH, Saatchi -- where she did JC Penney spots and coined Crest's tag 'you can say anything with a smile' -- and the WPP's Y&R, where she was a global executive creative director. She also once staged a mock protest at an Ikea that went viral.
Keenan was behind this brilliant Crest ad about a construction worker who knocks down a playground with a smile.
Rolfe spend a decade at CP+B creating celebrated work for MINI, Burger King, Volkswagen, and the 'Truth' campaign. She also did the 'Eat 'Em Like Junk Food' campaign for Bolthouse Farms, which momentously branded baby carrots for the first time.
She then moved on to Co:collective, a completely different kind of shop that is small and consults with clients that want to reinvent themselves.
Lamar started in advertising production, setting up shop as the executive producer at W+K Amsterdam, before she transitioning to the more creative end of the advertising industry. While in Amsterdam, Lamar tried her hand at script writing and directing two Nike Spots (and a documentary for the Clinton Global Initiative) and decided to change her direction in the industry.
Lamar transitioned to junior copywriter and was quickly moved up the totem pole to copywriter and then senior copywriter. She became an associate CD at TBWA/Chiat/Day LA in 2008 and was promoted to CD on the Gatorade account less than a year later.
In fact, Lamar was an essential part of Gatorade's rebranding process to 'G.'
Lamar now works at Amusement Park Entertainment.
According to her LinkedIn, Lu is a Creative Mutant at Droga5 (a position that the shop actually lists in ad credits).
Lu has done solid, award winning artistic work for BBDO, Deutsch, and Lowe, and she has done 'hood rat stuff' with Tim Nolan at Universalscene.
Her work is bright, energetic, and extremely engaging.
Bogart defines advertising as a thing that turns 'customers into brand ambassadors. It's about creating ideas, platforms + experiences and delivering one message in unique ways across each of them. It's about shifting paradigms. I do that.'
While at AKQA, Bogart has been the creative lead on accounts including Old Navy, Target, Nike, and Gap at a time when the company needed to reinvent itself. She previously worked and freelanced at other noteworthy shops, including Chiat/Day, doing work on Apple, Kia Motors, and Lucas Arts.
Bogart also served as one of a few creatives who participated in Facebook's second-ever Creative Council meeting.
Nicholson joined McKinney as a proofreader in 2004--a year later, she was creating integrated campaigns for Travelocity and Sony.
Nicholson is particularly good at making creative multimedia campaigns. She has put the Travelocity gnome on Chatroulette, created a Twitter enabled 'Terrible Towel' that spun around whenever a fan tweeted #steelersnation, and created 'promiscuous txt' training sessions called 'Let's have Txt' for Virgin Mobile on Valentine's Day. Nicholson says, 'Along with a team of trained operators, I personally spent 14 hours a day for almost two weeks posing as the fireman, the housewife, the nurse, the secretary, the plumber and the cowboy. As a result, I've got a vocabulary of euphemistic puns you wouldn't believe. Let's just say, it's quite sizable.'
It's hard to make an ad for paint interesting, but Nicholson did with this award winning spot for Sherwin-Williams.
Kiger has tackled various advertising mediums, including interactive, video, mobile, retail, outdoor, and social.
Leading R/GA's 150-plus global visual team, she has overseen award winning projects for brands including for Nike, L'Oreal, Target, Mastercard, and Microsoft.
R/GA CCO Nick Law once told Ad Age that Kiger 'is very good at interpreting a client's brand visually. Whether that client be a financial client or a consumer group client or a sporting client, she has great tone and can figure out the tone of a client.'
If you watched any television at all during the holiday season, then you probably noticed Crate&Barrel's simplistic but moving new ad campaign.
The spots were created by Holly Hessler and Helena Skocienczny, who go by H&H around TBWA. Although Hessler was born in Virginia (and previously worked at 72andSunny) and Skonieczny was born in Brazil (previously at Motion Theory) they came together in 2011.
Their first joint project was pitching Crate&Barrel, which they won. The two have also pitched and won Southwest Airlines and have created Diet Pepsi's soon-to-be-released 2013 campaign.
Delaney is one of the few advertisers whose work is also showcased in the Museum of Modern Art's permanent advertising collection. She has done campaigns for almost every kind of brand out there, including: IKEA, Snapple, Quiznos, Foot Locker, Bank of America, Tommy Hilfiger, and Tanqueray.
Delaney started out at TBWA/Chiat/Day NY on Reebok before moving to Deutsch in 1993, working her way from associate creative director to CCO, president in 2004. She then joined Nitro in 2007 as global chief creative officer and saw its transition to SapientNitro.
She founded her own shop in 2011 and is a COO on SK Energy Shots.
Delaney oversaw IKEA Everyday Fabulous, in which guerrilla furniture installations were placed throughout New York City.
Robinson is known for her exceptionally creative work for Intel and LEGO for Pereira & O'Dell.
One example is Intel's social film called 'Inside.' Actress Emmy Rossum starred in the video in which she played a woman who was trapped in a room, location and reason unknown, who only had an Intel powered Toshiba laptop to guide her. Clues were released on Twitter and Facebook so fans could become a part of the mystery.
She also worked on the Lego Cl!ck campaign.
Robinson worked for TBWA/Chiat/Day and EVB before joining Pereira & O'Dell in 2009.
Livingston Mokhtari has worked at shops from London to Chicago to Los Angeles, and she has helped brand everything from tacos to maternity dresses.
Before coming to 72andSunny to work on Target, she did campaigns for Vidal Sassoon, PETCO, and Luvs Diapers (to name a few) at Leo Burnett.
Livingston Mokhtari wears other hats as well. She also has collaborated with Michael Bay and Rachel Ray at the TV production company she runs called Jolly Good Productions. She's also a mummy blogger. Her blog is called mum Butter.
Yu started her career at 180 in the Netherlands and worked her way country to country to end up at BBH New York.
According to the folks at BBH, 'Yu is recognised throughout the agency for pushing the envelope to come up with incredible ideas and work... that stem from universal truths.'
Standout work includes campaigns for Google and Cole Haan. She helped created Google's award winning spot 'Dear Sophie' and Cole Haan's 'Don't Go Home' campaign, which included a Fashion Week event that had disco balls, food trucks, drag queens, and late night dance parties.
Yu also worked on Adidas and Microsoft at CP+B in Colorado.
Fegley is another BBHer that made our list -- various competing shops told us how much they admired her work.
Fegley joined BBH NY last year after spending two years as a freelance creative consultant with Dos Equis, Rembrandt, Tide, and Old Navy. She also worked as a JWT CD for Nestle.
She is known for spots that both target women (she did DSW's first national campaign for Cliff Freeman & Partners) and a mixed audience for Dos Equis' 'Most Interesting Man in the World.' In fact, she once wrote all of his interesting feats.
Fitzgerald brought Grey Poupon back into the national spotlight after a 15 year advertising hiatus. The elitist mustard is now 'the most discerning Facebook page in the world' with its 'Society of Good Taste' app.
She's also responsible for Old Navy's recent campaigns, including its holiday spot which brought back the Griswolds from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.
Fitzgerald started at CP+B in 2002 before heading to TBWA/Chiat/Day LA for a six-year stint in 2004. But she returned to her original shop to work on Old Navy and Grey Poupon.
An art director by trade, Scelzo says that she comes 'in a variety of sizes. Depending on my shoes, I can be as tall as Yao Ming or as little as Tom Cruise.'
She has accumulated many awards from her 11 years at Leo Burnett (working on Tampax and Altoids), worked on Propel and Gatorade briefly at Element 79, and then joined DraftFCB in 2009 to breathe life back into Dockers. She's responsible for its 'Wear the Pants' campaign.
Scelzco was the group creative director of this incredible Dockers ad that asks where the superheroes will change when all the phone booths are gone.
Bennett started her advertising career at Leo Burnett shortly after graduating from the University of Texas in Austin and was promoted as the agency's youngest creative director ever at 27. While at Leo Burnett, she oversaw creative for Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Delta Airlines, and HJ Heinz.
In 2003, Bennett made the move to DDB San Francisco and helped the shop win its first Cannes Gold Lions. She has risen in the ranks and was named CCO of DDB two years ago.
Bennett doesn't only make good creative, she also judges it, serving as a juror for the Cannes Lions Film Jury, the CLIOs, and more.
Costello was the 12th employee at Deutsch's LA office -- it now has several hundred -- and has worked at the company for 15 years.
Her most notable recent work, however, was a heartwarming spot for Target that ran during the Olympics that showed videos of teens reacting to getting accepted to college.
Johnson is GS&P's first-ever female partner.
The ad veteran started working at the SF-based shop 16 years ago and has worked on almost every account, including: SONIC, Haagen-Dazs, Nintendo, Budweiser, Foster Farms, and HP. She was previously an art director at the Richards Group.
Johnson's creative expands beyond advertising. She produced and directed a short film titled 'Dunkumentary,' which was featured in the Short Films Corner at Cannes.
Kaplan Thaler is behind some of the most memorable campaigns in the United States. She's the co-creator of the Aflac duck, did 'Kodak Moments' for Kodak, and was part of Toys 'R' Us' memorable 'I don't want to grow up, I'm a Toys 'R' Us kid' campaign.
When she was getting her MFA in music, Kaplan Thaler was incredibly offended when one of her professors said that she should write jingles instead of contemporary pieces. It turned out to be great advice.
Her agency merged with Publicis this summer.
After spending two years building her own socal media agency called Socialistic, DeCourcy was very recently named co-global creative director at W+K with Mark Fitzloff. Socialistic created mobile 'perception' games, complete with interactive puzzles and encryption codes, for Showtime's 'Homeland.'
This isn't her first time with a big name agency, though. DeCourcy formerly served as the chief digital officer at TBWA, where she did interactive assignments for Adidas and helped launch online initiatives for Pepsi.
DeCourcy also recently made headlines for publishing a brutal confessional on the sexism she faced earlier in her career.
Applebaum just started as creative director at JWT after running Kraft's incredibly successful 'Oreo Daily Twist' campaign for DraftFCB NY.
In honour of Oreo's 100th anniversary, the shop created 100 pieces of creative content every day for 100 days.
Oreo's tribute to the Mars Curiousity and its celebration of gay pride day are just two examples that gained national attention.Co-CCO Matt MacDonald is excited about her arrival to JWT, explaining, 'In one day, Jill got the whole world talking about a 100-year old cookie. We can't wait to see what she does in her time at JWT.
Connolly has been behind some of BBDO NY's biggest campaigns.
On top of doing work on Duncan Hines and Mountain Dew, she also helped launch Cingular's 'Raising the Bar' campaign and then re-launched it as the new AT&T a few years later.
More recently, Connolly co-created BBDO's Super Bowl spot for M&M's that introduced the sassy Ms. Brown. Who didn't love the red M&M's 'naked' dance party?
Advertising guru Cindy Gallop, the founder and former chair of the US branch of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, was by far the most nominated person for our 'Most Creative Women in Advertising' list.
Her personal mantra says it all: 'I like to blow shit up. I am the Michael Bay of business.'
Three years after winning advertising woman of the year, she founded her own consultancy in 2006. Since then she has founded innovative startups including MakeLoveNotPorn, which aims to shift the perception of sex away from what people see in hard core pornography, and IfWeRanTheWorld. The latter company aims to help people and brands turn good intentions and ideas to actions that exact changes in their surroundings. Levis did a campaign through IfWeRanTheWorld in 2010.
Gallop is a notoriously engaging speaker and gave one of the most epic, albeit sexually explicit, TED Talks ever.
Credle started covering the phones for receptionists on bathroom breaks at BBDO NY in 1985 and rose up the ranks to become executive creative director, where she worked on M&M's and Cingular Wireless.
Credle has done work for McDonald's, Kellogg's, P&G, Sealy, and Allstate -- you can thank her for the insurance company's famous bad boy spokesman, Mayhem.
She joined Leo Burnett in 2009 as a CCO.
Hoffman has spent 30 years at Wieden & Kennedy and is responsible for some of the industry's most game-changing work.
She worked on Nike before its slogan was 'Just Do It,' she has managed to stay cutting edge throughout her career. Recent successes include one of the most popular campaigns of the last decade: Old Spice's 'man your man could smell like.' (She created the campaign with fellow ECD Mark Fitzloff). She also worked on Chrysler's two last Super Bowl spots starring Clint Eastwood and Eminem.
She was also named one of Business Insider's most powerful women in advertising.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.