100 Most Influential Women in Advertising

A Century of Women in Advertising

From 'I Wish I Were a Man' Cigarette Ads to 'My Butt is Big and That's Just Fine'

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1912
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Nebo cigarettes: "Hear her sigh: 'I wish I were a man'"
One hundred years ago, in 1912, the suffrage movement was gaining steam. Although the 19th amendment, guaranteeing a women's right to vote, would not pass until eight years later, marketers were using the debate to their advantage. Consider this ad for Nebo cigarettes. "The words are directed to a man who may be offended by the 'sass' of a Suffragette, but they also appeal to Suffragettes and other strong women -- like flappers and spinsters -- as well," says the Stanford School of Medicine in this analysis.

1923
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Listerine: "Always a bridesmaid, but never a bride."
We have Listerine and ad agency Lambert & Feasley to thank -- or blame -- for this phrase, which was popularized by the mouthwash marketer in 1923. The campaign's star was "Edna," who a print ad said "was like every woman, her primary ambition was to marry." But "as her birthdays crept gradually toward that tragic thirty mark, marriage seemed farther from her life than ever." Apparently her problem was halitosis … nothing a little mouthwash couldn't fix.

1925

Lucky Strike: "Reach for a Lucky"
Although plenty of women smoked in the 1920s, it still carried a bit of a stigma. Legendary adman Albert Lasker helped shatter that with this campaign, which positioned the brand as a weight-loss tool with the tagline "reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet." His epiphany came at a Chicago restaurant in 1925, when the waiter asked a woman to put out her smoke, according to the book "The Cigarette Century." He sought to make Lucky the brand for women, even associating the smokes with Amelia Earhart in one ad, according to the book.

1936
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Woodbury soap: "Filtered Sunshine"
In 1936, four decades before Brooke Shields asked us what comes between her and her Calvins, came this campaign for Woodbury soap. As legend has it, this is one of the first ads featuring a naked woman.

1942

Office of War Information and War Manpower Commission: "We can do it."
Who can forget Rosie the Riveter, the classic icon backing the campaign to recruit women to the workforce during World War II? The ads by J. Walter Thompson "made a tremendous change in the relationship between women and the workplace. Employment outside of the home became socially acceptable and even desirable," says the Ad Council.

1948
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Lysol: "Why does she spend the evenings alone?"
"Why does she spend the evenings alone?" Lysol asked in a 1948 print ad for a feminine hygiene product it sold at the time. Billed as "a love quiz for married folks only," the ad portrays a women who "keeps her home immaculate," "looks as pretty as she can" and "really loves her husband." But she lost "the precious air of romance" because she apparently was using the wrong douching product.

1955
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Miss Clairol: "Does she … or doesn't she."
In 1955, Life magazine rejected this campaign for Clairol by Foote, Cone & Belding because it was seen as suggestive of , um, something that has nothing to do with hair coloring. But FC&B VP Shirley Polykoff kept pushing, and Life eventually relented after some research. "They couldn't find one woman who admitted to getting a double meaning from the words," Ms. Polykoff recalled at an ad industry event in 1964, according to an account by Ad Age . "This so knocked Life's all-male panel for a loop that the advertising was accepted."

1968
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Virginia Slims: "You've come a long way, baby."
In 1968, here's how adland measured female progress: "You've got your own cigarette now baby, you've come a long, long way." So said the jingle created by Leo Burnett for Phillip Morris' newly launched Virginia Slims, whose thinner sticks targeted women. The name "Virginia" was chosen to convey "moonlight, romantic breezes and rolling hills," Ad Age reported at the time. Of course, Philip Morris' marketing director's wife was also named Virginia. The brand grew market share for a couple of decades, but by 1990 the campaign's allusion to the women's movement lost steam, partly because female smokers viewed it as ''something that happened in the 60s," according to this academic study of the campaign.

1971
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National Airlines: "Fly Me"
Sexist ads persisted by the 1970s, especially in the skies, where airlines portrayed flight attendants as little more than flirtatious sex objects. "We really move our tail for you," was the tagline of a Continental Airlines campaign, while National Airlines debuted "Fly Me" in 1971, featuring Cheryl, Maggie and other stewardesses. That was followed up with "I'm going to fly you like you've never been flown before." Airline execs defended the ads in the face of protests from women's groups. In 1974, Ad Age quoted a National spokesman saying, "'Fly me' obviously refers to the planes, which we named according to computerized lists of most common girls' names." Yeah, right.

1972
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AT&T: "The phone company wants more installers like Alana MacFarlane."
"The Lady of the House is Dead," declared a two-page ad in Ad Age in 1970 by The Cadwell Davis Co., as the women-led agency pledged to "rebel against moronic, insulting advertising." The industry responded to such objections with "counter-stereotype ads … designed to suggest that the company in question agreed with at least some of the social aims of the women's movement," according to this University of North Texas research paper. Consider this ad from AT&T in 1972 showcasing Alana MacFarlane, one of the company's first female phone installers.

1975
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Glamour: "Young women buy it to buy from it."
With the feminist movement firmly rooted, the United Nations declared 1975 "International Women's Year" and convened the first World Conference on Women in Mexico City. Glamour magazine referenced the event in this ad in Ad Age that gives a great head-to-toe glimpse of women's style trends at the time. Overalls were in, as were woman self-help books, espadrille shoes, head wraps and "short-cut sewing accessories."

1978
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Enjoli: "The 8-hour fragrance for the 24-hour woman."
By the late 1970s, advertising entered the era of the so-called "superwoman," a career-minded female who does it all. Here is one of the most iconic campaigns of the era, for the perfume Enjoli by Charles of the Ritz. Launched in 1978, the ads told us that "she can bring home the bacon, and fry it up in a pan."

1980
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Calvin Klein Jeans: "You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins?"
Although the designer jeans craze started in 1978 with Jordache's "You've got the look" campaign, it took off in 1980 when Calvin Klein paired with a young Brooke Shields, who famously asked: "You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins?" The answer, of course, was "nothing." The then-controversial spot began a string of polarizing ads by the marketer, including a mid-90s campaign that featured models so young it was derided as "kiddie porn," even prompting an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.

1984
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Apple: "1984"
Apple's "1984," one of the most acclaimed ads of all time, starred a woman. The athlete who shatters Big Brother is Anya Major, who was reportedly picked because she had experience throwing a discus, making her capable of hurling the sledgehammer. TBWA's Lee Clow "always wanted a woman in that role from the very beginning of the concept," recalled Steve Hayden, who helped create the ad, in a recent email to Ad Age . "He thought she would serve as a maximum contrast to the oppressive surroundings. Originally, though, he had her flinging a baseball bat at the screen. [Director Ridley Scott] suggested the hammer as a much more symbolic and universal symbol." The ad came as women's rights criticized the computer industry for ignoring women's roles in purchasing decisions, Ad Age reported in 1985.

1990
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Sprint: Candice Bergen
Sometimes, timing is everything. Like in 1990, when Sprint tapped actress Candice Bergen to be the face of its long-distance-calling campaign. Ms. Bergen proved to be the perfect choice, hitting the air just as the hit show "Murphy Brown" hit its stride. The character, of course, went on to generate headlines as a symbol for single motherhood, drawing the ire of conservative critics such as Dan Quayle. "We were very fortunate in signing Candice when we did -- the timing was good," Sprint VP-Marketing and Advertising George Rodriguez told Ad Age in 1993.

1992
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Calvin Klein: Kate Moss
In 1992, model Kate Moss made her debut for Calvin Klein at age 18, barely weighing anything as she posed provocatively with Mark Wahlberg, then known as Marky Mark. "The androgynously styled advertisement had women everywhere shopping for boy briefs, turned Mark into a sex symbol and vaulted Kate's career," is how the The Fashionist blog describes it. Known for her "heroin chic" and "waif look," Ms. Moss emerged as a hot -- but controversial -- choice for marketers ranging from Burberry to Chanel, commanding an annual price tag of $9 million a year by 2005, according to an Ad Age account that year. But that same year, marketers such as H&M were forced to distance themselves from the supermodel when she appeared on the front page of Britain's Daily Mirror allegedly snorting cocaine.

1995
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Nike : "If You Let Me Play"
Nike in 1995 became one of the first marketers to celebrate women in sports with this effort by Wieden & Kennedy. The commercial featured young girls talking about the benefits of activity extending far beyond wins and losses. For example: If you let me play, "I will be more likely to leave a man who beats me," or "I will be 60% less likely to get breast cancer." The ad drew widespread attention, particularly with older women and moms who never had the chance to compete on the field, according to a Marquette University research paper.

1997
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Cadillac Catera: "The Caddy that zigs"
When General Motors couldn't lure Barry White to star in a Super Bowl ad for the Cadillac Catera, it signed up Cindy Crawford, dressed her in a miniskirt and leather boots and had her portray a bored princess whose life is brightened when the car's animated duck mascot hands over the keys to a Catera. The rush-job backfired when female execs at GM grew concerned the spot might offend the car's core target : educated and sophisticated women. The spot, by D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, was pulled less than a month later.

2004
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Dove: "The Campaign for Real Beauty"
Launched in 2004 by WPP's Ogilvy & Mather, this effort achieved critical acclaim for its portrayal of women just as they are, rather than the superficial, unattainable version of females that had filled magazine and TV ads for beauty products. In 2006, the Unilever brand added "Evolution" to the campaign, a time-lapse web video showing a woman transformed into a billboard model through artificial means such as make-up, Photoshop touches and the like. The kicker: "No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted." It went viral, to date amassing some 15 million YouTube views.

2005
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Nike : "My butt is big and that 's just fine."
Following Dove's much-praised Real Beauty campaign came a 2005 effort from Nike that celebrated women's big butts, thunder thighs and tomboy knees. While Glamour VP-Publisher William Wackerman, whose magazine ran the ads, called the campaign "brilliant," others criticized it. Feminist Gloria Steinman told Ad Age that while it was a "step forward," she questioned "whether Nike would do an ad about a man talking about his butt."

2011
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Dr Pepper 10: "Not for Women"
Smart or sexist? Dr Pepper in 2011 tried to lure men to a new mid-calorie soda by getting right to the point, declaring simply that the soda is "Not for Women." Dave Fleming, director-marketing at Dr Pepper, told Ad Age the brand was not out to alienate women. "Did we have a conversation about how far we wanted to go with this message? Absolutely," he said. "But we did the research, and it scored well with men and women." Still, some critics were not impressed.

2012
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Teleflora: "Give and Receive"
As much as female ads have changed, so much has remained the same. While the flirtatious flight attendants were grounded years ago and the stereotypical housewife ads have been put out with the trash, women, in many cases, are still portrayed simply as sex objects. Consider this 2012 Super Bowl spot from Teleflora starring Adriana Lima, who essentially says that men who give flowers will always get laid. That message, as Ad Age put it in February, is about as "subtle as a bag of hammers" and makes the provocative GoDaddy spots "look down-right progressive."

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