TEN WHO HELPED BUILD N.Y.'S SOLID FOUNDATION: HURDLING THE BARRIERS TO FORGE CREATIVE AD REVOLUTION

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The year was 1940. I was attending City College of New York and wanted a career in advertising. I started making the rounds, and I learned that:

(a) if you didn't graduate from an Ivy League school,

(b) if you were Jewish or

(c) if you didn't have a friend or relative in an agency, you didn't have much chance of finding a job.

Jack Tarcher, president of a small, thriving agency, gave me a list of agencies he described as Jewish-owned. Among them: Grey Advertising, Hirschon-Garfield, Sterling Advertising and Franklin Bruck.

I got a job as office boy at Franklin Bruck, whose major account was Sweetheart soap. I mimeographed the radio commercials for Eleanor Roosevelt's daily news program. Mr. Bruck told me most of America's clients were run by Christians and that large agencies were afraid to place Jews on an account, feeling it would not be acceptable to the client. And unless the product was a cosmetic or fashion item, the client would surely not accept a woman, whether she be Christian or Jewish.

Over the years, I have seen ad agencies change from a highly restrictive business in the '20s, '30s and '40s to an era of Jewish writers and Italian art directors in the '50s, '60s and '70s, to a totally open environment in the '80s and '90s.

Bill Bernbach, Mack Dane, Amil Gargano and Sam Scali broke barriers by going out on their own and forging the creative revolution that dominated the business for about 30 years.

Now we are beginning to see the acceptance of women in the highest echelons of New York agencies. Mary Wells showed the way over 30 years ago, and she was truly a pioneer. It was just a few years ago that Ogilvy & Mather named Charlotte Beers chairman, and she became the first woman to serve as elected head of the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

Looking back over the past 100 years, it is important to recognize the barriers that existed and not take as long to drop the barriers that remain.

Harold Levine, founding partner of Levine, Huntley, Schmidt & Beaver, organized the agency in 1972 with the late Chet Huntley, the longtime NBC-TV news anchor. Now retired, Mr. Levine is a trustee of the Advertising Club of New York Foundation. He was director of the Institute of Advanced Studies Program of the American Association of Advertising Agencies from 1985 to 1995, and he received the American Advertising Federation Diversity Achievement Award in 1996.

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