Peggy Olson is depicted as the sole female copywriter to wander the halls of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce in the “Mad Men” series’ depiction of advertising in the 1960s, but women had actually been working in the industry for decades.
JWT (then J. Walter Thompson) published a booklet in 1963 titled “Advertising: A Career For Women,” to lure college women to Madison Avenue — and not just for its secretarial pool.
JWT kindly agreed to let us excerpt the booklet (as well as its male-oriented booklet, “Advertising: A Career For Exceptional Men,” and gave us access to its photo archive. The images and the text form a stunning historic record of the real women of the “Mad Men” era. The final series of “Mad Men” premieres on AMC on April 5.
Laura Stampler originally compiled this post.
In the male-oriented booklet, 'Advertising: An Exceptional Career for Men,' the text reads: 'There are probably as many forms of advertising -- and as many facets to it -- as there are leaves on a tree.'
For women, there are as many different kinds of advertising 'as there are soap flakes in a box.'
Women often worked on soaps and other lady-friendly accounts.
For men, JWT explains that it works with 'more than 100 corporations whose products range from toothbrushes to giant jet aeroplanes ... You might find yourself working on a problem related to the soap business at one time, cameras at another, and automobiles the week after that.'
Women, however, were not promised that diversity in such detail but rather fed the blanket phrase that they would deal with 'all kinds of people and an infinite variety of businesses.'
It was far less likely that a woman would go on to pitch to auto and other 'male-oriented' companies. Jane Maas, who worked at Ogilvy & Mather in the 1960's, told Business Insider, 'working on the American Express account took longer than my becoming a Vice President (at Ogilvy) in 1970.'
The women's recruitment guide had a special section dedicated to opportunities specifically for women ...
It begins with the pitch: 'Advertising is a particularly promising field for women because so much advertising is directed to women and so many products are purchased by women. At J. Walter Thompson, women work in all departments and in all phases of advertising. Included among the many women holding highly responsible managerial and executive positions are two Assistant Treasurers, ten Vice Presidents and a member of the Board of Directors.'
Pretty impressive for 1963.
The section continues with the company's declaration of being dedicated to furthering women's careers ...
'The J. Walter Thompson Company was the first to recognise the importance of women's contribution to advertising. And advertising, itself, offers the young woman a unique and real opportunity -- a career in which you have a real chance to 'get somewhere.''
While JWT valued female candidates, it used different figures of speech to appeal to the different genders.
The women's packet uses phrases like 'your cup of tea.' The men's booklet uses the term 'lone wolf.'
JWT expected both men and women to have attended college (the New York office had female employees from more than 100 colleges) but only men were expected to have graduate degrees.
While JWT hails its many qualified and powerful female employees, the packet gives the disclaimer:
'And by all means -- don't snub typing! Ask your friends already in the business world ... you'll be impressed with how many of them used their typing ability as a 'toe in the door.''
This advice was not included in the men's recruitment book.
When JWT pitched job opportunities to men straight out of college, it talked about specializing in copywriting, public relations, art, television and radio, etc.
Jobs 'open to women,' however, began with membership in the 'General Staff' group, which meant new women would work under the personnel department and 'substitute for other girls who may be ill or on vacation.'
Although women got to work in the different sections of the company, they were often a 'right hand to a busy executive' or 'secretary to one of the senior analysts,' and of course needed good typing and shorthand skills.
This picture was in the women's booklet. The caption reads: 'Varied and interesting responsibilities of a Thompson secretary require an unusual degree of initiative and judgment.'
If women showed potential, JWT assured them that they could move up in the company: 'Many of our accounts are household products, foods, cosmetics, soaps, etc., there are broad opportunities for women to get ahead.'
If a woman was interested in copywriting, she could 'try your wings' at JWT's Women's Copy Study Group. Women with 'initiative and intelligence' might be assigned writing projects from actual writers.
According to the booklet, 'advertising is one of the few businesses in which you are not at a disadvantage because you're a woman' ...
... due to the many lady-friendly accounts.
Furthermore, 'a woman's potential earning power in advertising is considerably greater than in most fields,' although JWT warned that beginning salaries were 'not dramatic.'
'If your immediate future includes marriage, we're still interested in you -- if you plan to work long enough to make it worthwhile for both you and us,' the book assured. Some staffers were even working mothers!
JWT was even interested in talking to women who were planning on getting married in June, right after graduation.
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