Portrayal of Women Gets Timely Update

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When Bobbi Silten was a student at the University of California at Berkeley, her senior thesis was on the relationship between the mass media and the onset of anorexia in America.

Today, as one of the top women executives at Levi Strauss & Co., she has the ability to make some changes in the way women are portrayed in advertising.

The thesis, Ms. Silten says, led her to DMB&B, San Francisco, and later to that city's Foote, Cone & Belding office, where she worked first on Clorox and then Levi's brands.

She helped FCB develop the so-called "Matisse" campaign, a groundbreaking effort for Levi's jeans for women that used drawings to show women of all shapes wearing jeans.

At the time, the client and agency were so entwined that when a Slates marketing employee took a maternity leave, Ms. Silten temporarily took her place, eventually taking the position permanently.

She rose to brand director for Slates, Levi's men's dress casual line, revising the Slates logo and giving it a campaign featuring entrepreneurs.

Last year, she was named president of both U.S. Dockers and Slates brands.

Ms. Silten, 39, a vegetarian who likes cooking, music and is said to collect shoes, works long hours and brings a Zen presence to her management style, her co-workers say.

Overall, Ms. Silton says of the jeansmaker, whose fortunes have turned in recent years, "We've definitely turned the corner."

As for women, she says, they've also turned the corner. "There's no longer an [unrealistic figure] ideal," she says.

Besides, Ms. Silten renews her perspective when she goes home. Her attorney husband defends prisoners on death row.

"It's a reality check," she says.

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