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Published by OLIKA, 2020-11-18 04:51:21



A Herstory of Advertising

Christina Knight

First published in 2013, Second edition 2014
Copyright © Christina Knight and Helena Thorsell.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or
reproduced in any manner without written permission.

Text: Christina Knight
Graphic design: Helena Thorsell,
Photography: See page 183 for all photography credits

Printed: InPrint, Latvia, 2014
Cover: Trucard matt 260 g Inlay: Munken Print Cream 15, 115 g

ISBN: 978-91-85845-88-0, first edition

This book was made possible by funding from Komm and is part
of the association’s ongoing work for equality, most recently expressed
in the change of charter in 2012: ”Komm should actively support its
member companies to create a good and equal working culture, focusing

on leadership, working conditions and wages”.

Published by OLIKA Publishing House Ltd. 2013
OLIKA (meaning different) specialises in stories challenging
limiting stereotypes and stories working in favour of gender
equality, equality and diversity in society. In 2012 OLIKA was
rewarded Rättvisepriset, the Equality Award.

To Tom & Oliver

Prologue ­ 1

Christina Knight 5

Shelly Lazarus 33

Stefanie Wurst 47

Kat Gordon 57

Nunu Ntshingila-Njeke 67

Susan Hoffman 77

Nina Åkestam 85

Cilla Snowball 101

Rakhshin Patel 109

Mary Wells Lawrence 121

Anna Qvennerstedt 137

Margaret Key 147

Catrin Vagnemark 157

Jean Grow 169

Epilogue 179

Herstory continues 180

during my 27 years in advertising I have encountered many inspiring,
brave and interesting women and men: clients, colleagues, students
and partners. Likewise, I have encountered many stories: experiences,
anecdotes and life histories and, not least, I have read many autobiog-
raphies, biographies and books on and about this marvellous industry.
I have read them all: David Ogilvy’s, Jan Cederquist’s, Sören Blanking’s,
Ove Pihl’s, Alf Mork’s and many more.

Why did it take me all of 27 years to realize that not a single one of
those books had been written by a woman? Does it matter, not that it
took that long to realize, but does it matter that her story has obviously
not been told?
  I think it matters. I know that it matters. I know because every time
I teach and lecture at advertising schools or at the Stockholm University
I get the same questions: “What is it like to be a woman copywriter?
A woman creative director? What is your experience of being a woman
in the advertising industry? How have you been able to do it for so long?”


I was asked those questions in the 90’s, at the turn of the millennium
and I am still getting them more than ten years later, in 2013.
  I know that it matters, because I have talked to and tried to console
and be a mentor to endless young, creative, ambitious and aspiring
women in the industry. They turn to me and say: “Where are the role
models? How do we tackle not being listened to; understood? Where
are the women? Where is our story?”
  It would be presumptuous of me to say – it is here. This is merely an
attempt to tell my story and to capture and convey some of the voices
out there; the voices of women who have great stories to tell; great
experiences to share, great advice to pass on.
  Hopefully it will serve not only as a source of inspiration, empower-
ing young women in the industry, but also as an encouragement to
share and continue weaving and telling the story – herstory.
Christina Knight
Stockholm, January 2013


I have written this book in the hope that it can encourage and empower more
women and men to make the change that I see so necessary for our industry.
I hope it will inspire other women to share their stories, experiences and advice.
I hope it will inspire men to actively be part of the change.
  The women in this book have all been selected because they have impressed
me as wise, inspiring, fun, sympathetic and successful women of their trade.
Of course, there are many, many more. And I hope they will eventually share
their stories, too. Now, here is mine.

I find it quite mind-boggling that today I can happily stand in front
of an audience of hundreds and speak, whereas as a child I was so pain-
fully shy I could hardly even say my name out loud in the classroom.
I remember locking myself into my room, jumping out of the window
and hiding in the forest, where my dad couldn’t find me, because I
didn’t want to go to school. School to me, as a seven-year-old, was over-
whelming, loud, too busy and with lots of screaming kids everywhere.
I would much rather sit on the floor in my room and cut my mum’s
and dad’s magazines to pieces, rewriting and pasting them together


Mad Women – A Herstory of Advertising

again into new magazines. I’d sell them back to my parents and had
quite a nice little business running there. Books were my best friends,
I loved the smell of libraries and my parents were both into writing, my
father as a teacher and my mother as a translator, I made typewriters,
papers, pens and pencils my family at a very early age.
  I was terrified of people for quite some time; I just thought they
were probably all better and braver than me. My greatest learning in
life is that we are actually all very alike with similar fears, hopes and
dreams. I learned that lesson by studying literature, but also by study-
ing people and life, which is a great occupation of mine. I found it
a comforting thought that we are all quite alike, all basically just as
afraid, and that eventually brought me out of my shyness.

Deep down in my heart I probably knew at a very early age that writ-
ing had to be my profession, but as my biology teacher was brilliant
I thought being a biologist would probably please him as well as my
mother, who was a chemist. So I chose Natural Sciences at college, but
then my Swedish teacher was even more brilliant and he encouraged
me to write essays, stories and poetry and do my internship at a news-
paper. I reckoned at this point there were only two professions that
were about writing: that of a journalist and that of an author. Writing
books seemed like a romantic dream that would probably not pay too
well; writing as a journalist seemed more realistic, varied and interest-
ing. So I decided to become a literary critic.
  At the age of 19, I packed a ridiculously small suitcase, waved my
parents goodbye and hopped on the boat to England in order to
study a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Literature and Film at the
University of Sussex. The reason it was American literature specifi-
cally was that I had read The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck one
hot summer as an exchange student in St. Louis, Missouri. That
book completely captured me; when everyone else was at the pool, I
was in my air-con bedroom reading about the fate of the Joad family.
I couldn’t put it down.


Christina Knight

Three years of Thatcherism, PG Tips, pub rounds, Boy George
and Adam and the Ants were every bit as educational as ploughing
through and discussing everything from Whitman and Thoreau to
Pynchon and Kerouac. I topped it all up with a weird exchange year
at the University of California in San Diego where I was the only one
without a surf board under my arm and a BMW parked on campus and
the only one with floppy sandals, flowing skirts and beads in my hair.
Coming back to Brighton, I had every intention of staying on in the
UK, but by this time unemployment was close to 12% and I had to hop
back on that boat to go home and earn myself a living in Stockholm.

I was 23 and still no one had ever told me there was a writing profes-
sion called copywriting. I stumbled across it by chance, when, in order
to pay my rent, I had reluctantly taken on a job as a sales person for
EF Language Schools. I noted that there was a huge in-house produc-
tion of brochures, posters and sales letters, and when my boss asked if
there was anyone who would be interested in writing them, I quickly
raised my hand. I could think of no better way to get out of sales and
invoicing and into words, words, words. I was writing away with great
enthusiasm when an old friend of mine said: “Do you realize that what
you are doing now is what a copywriter does?” “A – what!?” I replied.
She told me about the advertising school in town, Berghs School of
Communication, and in 1985 I was accepted for a one-year degree
course in copywriting. Goodbye Journalism. I had decided to become
a copywriter, and I had absolutely no idea of what it entailed.
  At that time, Berghs School of Communication in Stockholm
was quite a small and personal school. There was a certain fame fac-
tory atmosphere: a tightly knit group of people who basically studied,
worked, laughed, partied and slept together. Sleeping was often no
more glamorous than kipping on the bug-ridden sofa in the classroom
after working until the early hours of the morning.
  There were as many female as male students and I guess we were all
lulled into a utopian world of equality. In retrospect, I am quite surprised
that I didn’t react more to the fact that not one single teacher at Berghs


Mad Women – A Herstory of Advertising

at this time was a woman. Perhaps this was because I had had very few
female lecturers at the University of Sussex, in fact none, and only a
few at the University of California in San Diego. Had I come to accept
that higher academia was a world that belonged to men? I simply can’t
remember my thoughts on this theme, but I do remember that I defi-
nitely took for granted that working life would mean equal rights and
equal pay for women and men. Little did I know.

During my year at Berghs, I did my internship at a small agency called
1985. It was a newly established, small and creative workplace, started
by a group of people who were ready to carve out the kind of commu-
nication they believed in. They had all worked for a few years at other
larger and successful agencies – the copywriter Henri Holmgren, the
art director Lasse Ohlson and the account directors Lars-Göran Uddman
and Carolina Welin.
  We would sit around the kitchen table, on old, odd wooden chairs
that Lasse had found and collected. Stories were told; stories of Henri’s
military life, but also experiences of their former agencies: Alm & Co,
Arbmans. That was the first time I heard of Arbmans. I realized it was
institutional, the fundament of Swedish advertising. Names of men
were mentioned. Leon Nordin was one of them; he was the guru. We
also talked about the most attractive of all agencies at that time, Hall &
Cederquist. No women were mentioned. I guessed that was how it had
been; the history of advertising. Now things would surely be different.
  I was given my own room, my own electric IBM typewriter. Every-
thing was white and very 80’s. We ate sushi on Fridays and sat laughing
in the studio for hours waiting for the courier to deliver from the type-
setters. Henri’s loud voice and unforgettable, contagious laughter
spread throughout the rooms; it was an inspiring, experimental and
permissive atmosphere. I was still quite shy, but the atmosphere was
friendly and I felt right at home.
  In June of 1986 I graduated from Berghs and was awarded a scholar-
ship as Copywriting Student of the Year. I believe I was awarded it as much
for my writing skills as for my camaraderie. I was always competitive,


Christina Knight

but not at the expense of someone else. I was always willing to share.
I think that is part of who I am, how I was brought up. And I guess it
is about being both task oriented and relationship oriented. I have al-
ways tried really hard to be a fair player, to listen to and respect others,
to understand where people are coming from, what their dreams and
needs are all about. You need to love and be intrigued by people. In
fact, in retrospect, I think those are traits a copywriter definitely needs
in order to be successful; writing skills are simply not enough.
  My relationship with my boyfriend had come to an end, as had many
relationships at Berghs. Berghs was quite simply a love affair that few
relationships would survive. I was squatting in a tiny apartment with a
fabulous view and I wrote in my diary wondering when I would get a
job in the industry as an inexperienced copywriter, fresh out of school.
Then the phone rang. It was Lasse Ohlsson at 1985. He wondered
what I was up to and continued by saying that they had enjoyed work-
ing with me and reckoned I should come work for them. I jumped
for joy, sharpened my pencils and started my career as a copywriter at
1985 Advertising Agency in June of 1986. Now that recessions have
come and gone, I realize I was extremely fortunate to graduate during
the golden days of advertising in Sweden, and lucky to have done my
internship at a creative agency that was open to hiring young people.

One of my very first clients was Ericson City, at that time a chain of
suppliers of office furniture and equipment. In those days, advertising
was all about billboards and not least about page three in one of the
daily papers. To have a full-page ad on page three was the wet dream
of every creative in Sweden at that time. Myself included.
  I will never forget the very first client presentation we had for
Ericson City. A young art director, Kjell Martinsson, and I presented
under the wings of Lasse Ohlsson. I had come up with an idea that
the team liked, and during the presentation it was only natural for me
to say that “We thought of doing it this way …”. After the client had
bought into the campaign and left, Lasse came into my room and said
“Well done! And extra points for saying we and talking of us as a team”.


Christina Knight

That has always stayed with me. We are always a team. Creatives who
harp on about “me” and “It was my idea” have never impressed me
much. Nor have creative directors who want awards to be won, not by
and for the team and the agency, but for the ego of the creative director.
We are in this together, with our clients and colleagues, and hard work
and celebration should always be shared fairly and equally.

When I was at school in Sweden, and later on at university in England
and the US as well as at Berghs, life seemed very equal; there were always
as many women as men in the classrooms; we all had the same dreams,
hopes and plans. Nothing signalled that life after school would be
different. Again, the fact that I did not have one single female teacher
at Berghs never really made me stop and think; I was so absorbed by
the male lecturers and their stories. My favourite one was Hans Christer
Ericson1. He impressed me because of his ability to inspire and chal-
lenge us in a creative way. He was different, brave, a great artist. He
challenged us all; men and women alike, he made no difference. His
personality and passion was never macho, he was 100% just human.
And his message was clear: live life to its fullest and be open-minded
if you hope to be a successful advertising woman or man; keep your
eyes open and always have a camera with you; never walk the same way
twice to school. Hans Christer would also bring his friends to school
and thus share his network with us students. We met painters, actors,
journalists; women and men, lots of people who did everything but
work with advertising. That is also something that has stayed with me;
true insights and inspiration come from real people and from life
itself; they are rarely nourished by advertising as such. I live by it and
try to inspire my creatives to do the same; to find inspiration through
true insights and observations, rather than through the latest award
winners at Cannes.
  At the end of the spring term, me and my team finalised our exam
project and had the fortune of having Agneta Weiland, a senior
copywriter, as our coach. That was the only time I had a woman coach
during my whole time at Berghs and I wondered, of course, why I hadn’t


Mad Women – A Herstory of Advertising

seen more of her earlier. In retrospect and much later on in my career,
I have asked myself: How would it have been different if there had
been women role models earlier? Just imagine, for example, if I had
had the good fortune of meeting Mary Wells Lawrence, a fellow copy-
writer, 15 years ago, instead of now …

Only months after I had started working at 1985, the agency was ac-
quired by Hall & Cederquist, who were looking to buy small, crea-
tive hot shops. Later on they were also to acquire Blyerts with the two
founders and rebel copywriters, Lars Forsberg and Björn Schumacher.
I could not believe my luck! We were to move from the small prem-
ises in Grev Magnigatan into what was at the time the Swedish temple
of advertising, in Kaptensgatan 6. The whole thing was rather intimi-
dating. The offices were beautifully designed, with white open spaces,
expensive desks, lamps and armchairs. The distance from the front
door to the reception was not unlike the distance across the Saint Mar-
cus piazza in Venice; the slightest trait of agoraphobia and you would
break into a sweat before you reached the receptionist.
  One of the meeting rooms was similarly intimidating; there was
nothing there at all but a thick, exquisite rug in the middle of the
room; along the walls were expensive Mies van de Rohe armchairs
that clients would slide around in, uncomfortable and embarrassed. I
always wondered if this was intentional or not.
  However, the beautiful premises at Kaptensgatan 6 and the extremely
challenging and inspiring years I spent there laid the foundation of my
career in advertising, and for that I am very grateful. I could not have
entered a better greenhouse, surrounded by the very, very sharpest
account directors, especially Stefan Skogh and an array of creatives
who were legends of their time: Jan Cederquist, founder and copy-
writer; Lars Hall, his co-founder and art director and not least all the
copywriters who inspired me: Henri Holmgren, Christer Wiklander,
Janne Switz, Lars Forsberg, Björn Schumacher, Björn Engström and
Henrik Salander. They were all men.


Christina Knight

When I started at Hall & Cederquist in August of 1986, I was not only
the only woman copywriter; I was the only woman creative. Sure, there
were women at the agency, behind the reception desk, in the finance
department, in the studio and as assistants to Lars. There was one woman
account director, Inger Cramér. God bless her. I remember her as an
extremely hard-working woman, but I was probably too young to under-
stand how lonely she must have felt.
  I was fresh out of school and most of my fellow, male colleagues
were 10, 20 or even 30 years older than me. I was most definitely the
odd one out. That became especially apparent when Jan Cederquist
invited all the copywriters for a copywriters’ dinner at the agency one
evening. Eight men and me. I don’t remember saying much, but at
least I was invited. They would probably have been more comfortable
without me, but they did include me, something which I have under-
stood from female colleagues then and later is not always a given.

It wasn’t like at school at all. It was all quite bewildering; there was no
role model of my gender or age and I don’t think there ever had been.
I tried to remind myself that they had hired me and obviously liked
both my ways and my writing. Surely, nothing was to stop me from
being successful and becoming a great copywriter. I have always been
a hard worker with a competitive edge; I like being productive, I like
performing well.
  Luckily, I was surrounded by men who were quite comfortable with
the young copywriter girl; there was no prestige. On the contrary, they
all seemed to enjoy sharing their expertise and giving me advice. Once
my texts had passed under the eyes of all the copywriters and they had
all given me different and contradictory feedback, Christer Wiklander
very wisely said: “At the end of the day, you have to listen to your gut
feeling and decide what’s best for your own texts.”
  Eventually I had enough self-confidence and experience to do this,
but it took years of practice to finally just know when you’re done with
a text. It’s like down-hill skiing, I guess; you just have to keep at it,
practise, practise, practise and get up again every time you fall down.


Mad Women – A Herstory of Advertising

What kept me going, I guess, is my absolute love of writing in combina-
tion with the pleasure I find in doing something well, of performing
and delivering high quality, of being appraised. So if you are a young
copywriter reading this, and perhaps a person who is shy, like I was,
do not despair. Experience and time paired with your talent will bring
self-confidence in due time.
  Apart from once being taken for the tea lady by a client and apart
from being asked to shag on Jan Cederquists’s carpet by one of my
fellow copywriters, I truly feel that I gained the respect of clients and
colleagues at Hall & Cederquist. I kept working hard, but I also had
an enriching life outside of the agency, reading, going to exhibitions,
seeing a lot of film and travelling. Jan Cederquist was intrigued by my
travels, especially when after only two months at the agency I asked for
six weeks’ leave to travel to China. He was always very interested and
supportive. He was in tune with life, he was humble and genuinely
interested in people and he enriched his own life with a lot of other
things than advertising, especially with music. Later on, he also became
very interested in Gestalt therapy.
  In that sense, Jan really was a role model as an advertising man. He
led a rich life inside as well as outside of advertising. This has inspired
me and to this day I socialize mostly with people who are not in adver-
tising, but who do other things that impress and inspire me just as
much, if not more. They range from fire fighters and bankers to doctors
and shop owners.

Anyway, I was rapidly given more and more responsibility at the agency.
I think they had realized that I was a hard worker, I could write and I
knew how to behave at client meetings. So I was asked to collaborate
with one of the agency’s most renowned art directors, Johan Sten, on
one of the new and most challenging accounts, Ignis, a chain of under-
takers. I found it all rather terrifying. Johan was loud, boisterous, a lot
older than me and with quite a temper. On top of that, the notion of
advertising death was quite a harrowing challenge. How did I go about
it? I made all the mistakes. I sat down to write without having an idea;


Christina Knight

pressurized myself to be clever, witty, intelligent and sentimental. Out
came trash. By the bundle.
  I panicked, staring at the white sheet of paper in my typewriter and
the full trashcan beside my desk. I realized I needed inspiration, infor-
mation and insights. I needed material for my writing. So I stopped
writing and started talking to people instead; real people.
  I dug in deep; I decided I needed to confront all aspects of the sub-
ject, so I interviewed doctors, nurses, nuns, priests, paramedics, under-
takers and people who had lost their loved ones and were willing to
share their thoughts. I practised listening and even if it didn’t happen
in this specific assignment, I have often found that the client will come
up with a sentence or saying which can indeed inspire a headline,
a concept, an idea.
  And at the end of the day, when all my notebooks were full of notes
from meetings and interviews, I confronted myself, my fear of death
and my innermost, personal thoughts on the subject. That is how the
text for the ad came about, written by my kitchen table one dark, dark
night or even early morning. The text just ran out of my heart and
fingertips and it was entirely personal; it dealt with my grandmother,
who I loved so dearly and who I was, at that point in my life, terrified of
losing. I wrote about why we avoid death, even talking about death and
therefore really know nothing about how our loved ones think about
their own death or funeral. It took me weeks to research the subject,
it took me an hour to write the text. Then I fell asleep, across my bed,
exhausted, an hour before the alarm clock went off in the morning,
the day of the deadline. No pun intended.
  The next day I brought my text along to Jan Cederquist’s office.
His room was special, often filled with music and I was always quite
nervous about going in there; after all he was the guru and I was only
a young girl just out of school. I handed him my text, stood in front
of him eagerly watching his kind eyes as they flew across the words.
He got up and said: “Come with me,” and I followed him through the
entire agency all the way up the stairs at the end of the studio and
into Johan Sten, the art director’s room. “Here Johan, read this, it is


Mad Women – A Herstory of Advertising

remarkable!” Jan handed over the sheet of paper to Johan who was
barely visible behind his enormous piles of books. I started breathing
again and realized I had been holding my breath ever since we left
Jan’s room, not knowing where we were going or if I was indeed on
my way to my own execution. These two role models, Sweden’s most
rewarded ad men, were moved to tears by my words. They did not
change as much as a single syllable, but rather Johan went straight
to work, inspired by the six words I had written in the headline “Hur
gör man när man dör?” (“How do you die?”). It took him two seconds
to realize that the headline was made up of three-letter words only
and he immediately started designing the layout of the full-page ad.
It came out looking like an etched stone in a graveyard, capturing
the straightforward question, posed the way a small child would ask a
parent: “Mum, how do you die?”
  I think the reason the ad was so successful and appreciated was
that I dared be intimate in a matter that is the most personal subject
indeed. But I also managed to draw the line, not allowing myself to be
too sentimental. I wanted the readers to draw conclusions, to think for
themselves and hopefully even to inspire them to start talking about
death in a personal and caring way with close and dear ones.
  This was one of the most difficult tasks I have encountered as a
copywriter and it came early on in my career, when I was still quite
insecure and inexperienced. It is also one of my most rewarding
moments; seeing Jan’s and Johan’s reaction, watching nine under-
takers at Ignis listen as I read out my copy in a silent conference room,
seeing how tears were brought to their eyes and hear their marketing
manager say “I do not wish to change a single word of this; it is brilliant!”.

I had heard rumours that we were in a pitch for Johnson & Johnson to
propose a campaign on sanitary protection and I was just waiting for
some male to pop his head into my room and ask for my female exper-
tise. They did. And I ended up in one of the funniest client meetings
I have ever been in.


Mad Women – A Herstory of Advertising

Sanitary protection is probably just about the one area and product
that male account directors and creatives hasten to surrender and ad-
mit that they do not really know what they are talking about (although
I had heard that the Swedish legendary ad man, Leon Nordin, had
walked around with sanitary towels for a week to “live the product”
when he once had the account). I am still waiting for male creatives to
do it differently, without smiling ballet dancers and the dreaded blue
liquid, but with true insight – they have wives, girlfriends and daugh-
ters who have periods, don’t they!?
  Anyway, we got cracking on the brief, which told us to challenge
the perception that tampons were always a better choice than sanitary
towels. Luckily, I had a youngish, unconventional art director, Olle
Mattson, by my side. We were both in agreement that we wanted to
get away from the traditional and stereotype ads in pink, dramatizing
how free and ecstatic you can feel with a sanitary towel between your
legs. We started working with bold, to-the-point statements that Olle
typefaced black on white: “Forget about tampons!”, “Don’t use toilet
paper!” and so on and so forth. We had a pretty nice, unconventional
campaign tucked away in our portfolio as we boarded the plane to
Gothenburg for our presentation.
  I heard that there had been some discussion as to where I was sup-
posed to be in the meeting. I found this to be the case quite often at the
start of my career; women often participated in the process and were
then not allowed into the presentations or client meetings. I even had
a fellow woman copywriter who had to submit her texts to a male copy-
writer who would then present the copy as his in client meetings. She
subsequently left advertising and is now a photographer in L.A.
  Later on in my career, one of my CEOs called me up three hours
before a large meeting with our bank client. He said “We’ve just realized
we are all men from our side in the meeting, can you please make it at
2 p.m?”. I told him I would only be in the meeting if I had something
to say and which I had had a chance to prepare, and that I would never,
ever be in this meeting or any other meeting just to be a token woman,
wearing a skirt. I hung up. He got the point and never asked again.


Christina Knight

I truly hope that we will get rid of this embarrassing habit of recruit-
ing one symbolic woman for meetings, panel debates and juries; as if
we’re done with equality once we’ve remembered the token female.
For Christ’s sake, we are not there to be only women, we are there to
be professionals, just like the men. We happen to be women, just like
they happen to be men. And women and men are equally important,
because we bring different experiences and points of view to the table.
And don’t give me that crap of there not being any women that are
good, professional or experienced enough. Even if there weren’t, you
should give them a break and invite them to experience opportunities
and escape Catch-22. Now, that is not the case. The women are there,
even if not in equal numbers. Yet.
  As for the sanitary towel meeting, I think they realized they would
fall pretty short in detailed discussions, so there I was, entering a
boardroom the size of the Titanic and surrounded by about twelve
men; two from my own agency and ten from the client’s side. I found
myself blushing somewhat due to the topic, yet also rather content
with the attention I was getting, as I sat there happily talking about
periods, tampons and menstrual pains. What a laugh! Actually, I think
they were a lot more embarrassed than I was, because all they could
talk about was the material and the unheard of absorption of the
sanitary towels.
  Unfortunately, we didn’t win the account. I still have the drafts in my
attic and I believe they would have pioneered how we communicate
sanitary protection if only someone had been brave enough to say no
to the blue liquid and the pink, silly stuff.
  Many years later I was again on an account for sanitary protection,
this time for tampons. The client wanted us to adapt an existing brochure
with pink and purple Pokémon-like illustrations. We were insistent
that this would not work in Sweden and that we needed to start all
over. The campaign “Hello Period!” won us our first Lion in Cannes
and I think the success rested entirely on the fact that we separated
the communication directed at the 13-year-olds (our target group)
from that of their mums and produced two separate booklets, factually


Mad Women – A Herstory of Advertising

identical but completely different in tone of voice, humour and illus-
trations. The campaign is still running and has won pretty much every
award show in Sweden. Because we managed to convince our client of
our belief about how communication works, I treasure this campaign
and how it came about as one of my proudest professional achievements.

In 1989 I had my first wonderful son, Tom, and as I was married to an
English copywriter at the time, my parental leave was spent pushing
a pram through Richmond Park conversing with other mothers who
wondered which school I had put Tom down for, Tom being then 10
months old. It was bewildering and interesting, but after a short stint
at Discovery as an editor it was time to go back to Stockholm. I wrote
to Anders Wester, then CEO at Hall & Cederquist, that I had decided
for a divorce and as I was going through change, I might as well resign
from Hall & Cederquist, too. I couldn’t envisage working full-time at
a big agency as a single mother. I just didn’t want to put either Tom or
myself through that.
  My art director at that time, Helena Sundelin, whom Lasse Ohlsson
had promoted from final artist to art director over night, became my
first fellow woman creative at the agency and we had had a whale of a
time working together, before I left for London. She was an inspiring,
talented art director with an incredible sense of humour. We laughed
so hard in our corner of the agency that people came running, won-
dering what was going on. Helena happened to be in the room when
Anders read my letter of resignation. She walked out into the studio,
thought for a bit and then went back into Anders’ room and handed
in her resignation, too.
  Helena and I lived in the same part of Stockholm, had our first chil-
dren roughly at the same time and had come to a point in our careers
when we felt we were contributing really well to a big agency, so why
not pocket the money ourselves? We knew we were creative as a team
and we knew we were doing good stuff.
  In the fall of 1991, when we set up our own agency, Knight and Day,
everyone shook their heads; how foolish could we be to resign from


Christina Knight

the agency in Sweden and at a time of recession, too!? We installed
ourselves in my grandmother’s old apartment, which I had inherited;
we bought cheap, cheap stuff and second-hand furniture and kept lift-
ing the receivers off the hook to see if the phones were really working.
No one called. It was deadly. Then a journalist from the trade journal
Resumé called and asked if he could interview us about why we had start-
ed a women’s agency. I asked whether he had called the guys at OCH,
an agency which was founded roughly at the same time, to ask them
why they had started a men’s agency. He stammered somewhat and
seemed to get the point. I welcomed him to come and talk to us about
the agency we had started. The article made the phones ring like mad.
Mostly suppliers, printers; people who wanted our money (of which
we had none), but we also had a call from the Marketing Manager,
Birgitta Rittner, at Mjölkfrämjandet, the Swedish Dairy Association.
To cut a long story short, she was our first client, setting the whole
agency in motion, and soon others followed; the baby food produc-
er Semper, Hall & Cederquist’s first client ever, joined us and so did
Milko, the dairy producers, and soon enough IKEA followed, too.
  We had so much fun running our own creative agency, working with
lots of the good people we had come to know through the years. There
were women, there were men, but there was no prestige. To me, pres-
tige often gets in the way of good ideas; your energy is just channelled
into the wrong direction. I believe running an agency is very much
about nurturing a good working culture and good relations; good
client relations and good relations with colleagues. It’s not a ques-
tion of creating a comfort zone, because obviously you have to keep
challenging and questioning. It’s a case of creating an atmosphere
where people are comfortable being who they are; comfortable with
speaking openly and freely about ideas and thoughts. It creates a safe
atmosphere in the right sense of the word, good nurturing grounds
for creativity; and creativity as such brings profitability. We had fun at
Knight and Day and we made money.
  However, after about eight years, Helena was expecting her third
child and I had had my second lovely son, Oliver, with my second


Christina Knight

husband. We both found it quite taxing with families and running
an agency, even though we both had husbands to share it all with. I
was aching to do more copywriting and less managing, so in 1999 we
folded up a successful and profitable agency to become mothers and
freelancers full-time.

The fact that I have adjusted my professional life to fit my personal life
is, I think, part of the answer to how and why I have managed to stay
so long in the industry without going mad. I have been employed at a big
agency as a young creative, to learn the ropes; I have run my own agency
to make money, learn more about business and have fun and I have
worked as a freelancer in order to combine work and family life more
successfully. And now, that my kids are older, I have gone back to working
full-time as a creative director. In case you feel disheartened in your
career right now, remember that there’s a time and place for everything.
  Thinking back on my career, I realize that every big step I have taken
has been enabled by a woman. Malin Sävstam, CEO at Draft, asked me
to step up from being a copywriter to be a creative director (I declined
the first time, but the second time she literally went down on her
knees and I said yes!). I was headhunted by the CEO of Ogilvy, Carola
Määttä, to become the creative director of OgilvyOne in Stockholm
and in between it was Anna Serner, then CEO at Komm, the Swedish
Association of Communication Agencies who promoted me to be part
of the jury at Guldägget, the Swedish advertising awards, and subse-
quently a jury member at Cannes Lions. I had the opportunity to
thank her for this when I bumped into her in the street years later; it
was she who opened the door to all the coming juries that I have had
the opportunity to be on. And I applaud Madeleine Albright, the first
woman to become the United States Secretary of State, when she says:
“There’s a place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”
  Seeing that the business world is tough enough as it is, women really
need to help, promote and support each other, rather than to backstab
or be it to stab from above, if they themselves have had the good for-
tune of being promoted. By this I do not mean that as a woman you


Mad Women – A Herstory of Advertising

have to promote every woman you catch sight of in the advertising in-
dustry, merely because she is a woman, but in my opinion, you should
help in any way you can if help is wanted or needed; be a mentor, lend
an ear, give advice, console, talk and listen and share your network
generously. It is what men do, and we can do it, too. It is very gratifying
and it all comes back to you many times over if you do.

When I first started as a copywriter, most of my clients were men and
most of them were older than me. After 27 years in the business, this
situation has reversed. Many, if not more of my clients are women and
a majority of them are younger than me. Many of them seem to appre-
ciate working with a woman creative director; many comment on how
rare it is to find a woman in this position.
  The ones that really, really show me a lot of gratitude are the young
women students from the arts and media schools. They still don’t see
as many women as men in the top creative positions and they enjoy
showing their portfolios to a woman creative director. They enjoy talk-
ing to someone of their own kind. I am sure young, aspiring creative
men would find it just as rewarding to find a male creative director
after meeting with a million female.

I believe in role models. I always have and I always will. “If you can’t
see it, you can’t be it” pretty much sums it up. I remember once stand-
ing at the railway level crossing with my son Oliver, then aged three.
The train was approaching and in my ambition to raise sons with a view
of women as equals, I said: “Look, the train’s coming. Maybe there’s
a lady driving it.” “Nope,” said Oliver. “Ladies don’t drive trains.” Of
course they don’t, he had never seen one, so in his world they didn’t.
  I am often asked who has been my female role model. In all honesty,
I haven’t had one to look up to or be inspired by in the industry for the
major part of my career. In life, it was always my mother, because she
was somewhat of a pioneer; she was one of very few women who studied
chemistry and engineering at the end of the 40’s and she so skilfully
managed to juggle loving motherhood and a successful career.


Christina Knight

In advertising, as I mentioned, Jan Cederquist was my role model as a
copywriter; he inspired my writing as well as how to behave as a good
colleague. Hans Christer Ericson inspired my curiosity and bravery;
my absolute belief that advertising is always more interesting and better
if inspired by life, by the arts, by everything outside of life. Later on in
my career, and really when researching and writing this book, I finally
had the pleasure of meeting them. Meeting with Shelly Lazarus at
Ogilvy and Mary Wells Lawrence was revolutionary for me; they are
women who have been in the industry longer than me and not only
survived but have come out with flying colours, sympathetic, successful
and really, really generous and inspiring in their ways.
  We need these role models, whether they have been around for a
long time or whether they are younger and equally inspiring, as is the
case with Nina Åkestam and Anna Qvennerstedt, who you can read
about in this book as well.
  I also believe we need to meet, network and share experiences to a
larger extent than we tend to do. And when we meet, we need to be
honest, generous and supportive of each other. This world is definitely
big enough for all of us. Men have been good at networking for years,
they are good at supporting and empowering each other.
  Attending The 3% Conference in San Francisco in September 2012
was an absolute high for me. Just to be in a context with so many other
female creative directors, when I am normally the only one without a
beard, was very encouraging and inspiring.
  One of the major reasons for accepting to lecture and teach at my
old school, Berghs, is precisely this. Not because I think I am neces-
sarily the best one at it, but because I believe more women need to be
present at the ad schools, for the young generation, women and men
to see us as a given and important part of the industry. It’s especially im-
portant, of course, for the women who don’t have as many role models
as men – men still outnumber women in advertising by far (in Sweden
20% of the CEOs are women, 80% men2). Thankfully, things have
improved vastly since I was at Berghs. A large number of the teachers
there now are women; professional, successful, awesome women who


Mad Women – A Herstory of Advertising

empower and inspire the students. And thankfully, the female students
are a lot more self-assured than they used to be in the 80’s. I just want
to make sure they stay that way too; that they can handle coming into
the industry and survive the climate, which from time to time can be
very demanding and also very male, if I may say so. Ultimately, I hope,
of course, that they will be strong enough to create and drive change.

I recently received an e-mail from a former student of mine and I have
asked her permission to reprint it anonymously:

I’ve just been in a meeting with one of our biggest clients, presenting an
idea I’ve been working on for quite some time. I’ve been exposed to a man
rolling his eyeballs, coughing, fiddling with his phone reading e-mails, his
arms across his chest and looking at me above the rim of his glasses. ALL
to make me feel extremely uncomfortable – and then proceed to completely
nullify me, in front of all the others, killing my idea completely and telling
me I don’t have a clue.
  When I try to defend the idea he gives me the: “I’ve been in the business
for over 20 years and you don’t understand any of this …” kind of thing.
It is so tiring and above all, I get so angry at myself for reacting so strongly,
fighting to keep my tears back … kind of fulfilling all the prejudices about
young women at work.
  This has happened a couple of times now, both with clients and at the
agency. I guess I’ll just have to get used to it. But tell me, how have you put
up with this kind of stuff for so long without giving up.

This is how I answered her:

Dear X,
You have just had the enormous misfortune of bumping into an idiot, a
scared-shitless man who feels outdone by a young, ambitious and well-
prepared woman. It’s ALL about him. NOTHING is about you (i.e. he is
reacting because he feels threatened; he is small). Let him cast no shad-
ow over you. It is he who is lacking something, not you. You must im-


Christina Knight

mediately get angry and strong instead of being mortified and upset.
And then we will talk over lunch, which I look forward to. The future lies
before you. That old man has no future.

Yes, rather rash, I agree, but I reckoned that is what she needed to
hear at the time. Now, you might say that the idea she presented was
crap and who am I to know any of this. Of course I don’t, but even if it
was crap (which I sincerely doubt, knowing her potential) it is not for
him to behave like he did: ignorant, arrogant and impolite. If it was
indeed crap, he could have told her in other words, encouraged her
to try again and given her inspiration. Instead he killed her and she
will of course never respect him in any way. Which makes him the real
loser, not her.
  Please note that I would have been just as upset if a young male crea-
tive was exposed to this by a woman or by a man for that matter. It just
seems it happens more often to women, by men.
  I have been exposed to power games myself. I have had a male colleague
omit parts of my presentation without telling me, which of course
caught me off guard. When I asked him why, he said the quality of the
work wasn’t good enough to show. I told him never to do that again,
and if he found the work to be poor, he should talk to me about it first.

Once I had another male colleague who pulled me into a room and
asked if I felt threatened by him. I thought he was joking, but luckily
enough I stopped myself just as I was about to crack up laughing – I rea-
lized he was being dead serious. I felt more like asking him the reverse:
“Do you feel threatened by me?” But I stopped myself and I was being
honest when I said: “No, in fact, I don’t.”

Caitlin Moran has some good thoughts on power games in her book
How to Be a Woman (which by the way is excellent and a good laugh;
put it on your list!): “All along, we must recall the most important
Humanity Guideline of all: BE POLITE. BEING POLITE is possibly the
greatest daily contribution everyone can make to life on earth.”3


MadWomen – A herstory of advertising

She goes on to say: “Don’t call it sexism. Call it ‘manners’ instead.”4 I think
that is a good way of thinking about it, as many people seem to shy
away just at the mention of words like feminism and sexism. Forget
about those words if they bother you. At the end of the day, what it
really boils down to is a question of being professional rather than
unprofessional, a question of being decent and polite.
  “Are they being impolite?” is a good question to ask yourself if and
when you feel you are being exposed to a good dose of sexism. Ask
yourself – was the behaviour an example of being polite? Probably not.
It is not polite to fiddle your phone, roll your eyeballs and scratch your
crotch when someone else is making a presentation. OK, and once
you’ve tested statements for sexism, what do you do next? I believe you
need to be professional and answer politely rather than fall into self-
doubt, anger and misery or be tempted to give the same kind of crap
back. Try never to lower yourself to the pathetic level of the unprofes-
sionals. If you can refrain, you will, in the long run, gain both respect
and self-respect. You’ll be a better person, quite simply.
  However, it’s not just a question of reacting when exposed to sexism.
It’s a question of acting, to drive change, every day, every time you iden-
tify unfairness, impoliteness, unbalance. A few years ago there was a
study conducted on women in the workplace in the US and in Europe,
entitled Damned if You Do, Doomed if You Don’t 5, which I think addresses
many women’s dilemma – the feeling that if you point something out
and raise your voice, you’ve had it; if you don’t, nothing will change
and you lose out. It’s a tricky balance; we’re told not to be assertive, yet
to take charge. We’re raised to be all sugar and spice, yet not too nice,
because it won’t get us ahead. Joan Williams, who runs the Center for
WorkLife Law in San Francisco, has written the book Unbending Gender 6.
She says women are expected to be strong but tend to be labelled as
strident or abrasive when acting as leaders. “Women have to choose
between being liked but not respected, or respected but not liked,”
she has said.
  So – can we win or are we doomed? I think you should listen to
Cindy Gallop, the former CMO at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, New York


Christina Knight

and the excellent speaker and founder of and She quite simply says “Be the bitch”, and continues:
“Not literally – there is never any excuse for aggressive, unpleasant
behaviour in the workplace, whatever your gender (i.e Be polite! My
remark). But if it comes down to it, risking being seen as the bitch
is the lesser of two evils. It’ll get you more places and more of what
you want than receding invisibly into the background as a charmingly
feminine way will.”7 Cindy encourages women to speak up now:

“Have a different point of view from the men? Say so. Want that pro-
motion? Ask for it. Facing an all-male leadership team, board, creative
department or conference speaker line-up? Challenge it and propose
a better balance. Yes, you’ll be called a bitch but not by people who
know the best new future for our industry is one shaped equally by
women and men.”8

Cindy claims sexism is unconscious in a world where the default set-
ting is always male. I think she has a point, and most definitely when
she says it is human to find it very comfortable working with people
like you; hiring people like you, championing, promoting and hang-
ing out with people like you. In fact, she believes that is a key reason
why so many creative departments are pre-dominantly male. She says
if men want to work with women and genuinely want a gender-equal
industry, you have to be prepared for discomfort. She says: ”Because it
is uncomfortable to work with women, because we are different from
you. Women ask the tough questions, they ask them in life and they
ask them in business. /.../ Greatness comes out of discomfort. Hire
women, champion women, promote women, spend time with women.
It is not as comfortable as hanging out with the guys, but it’s going to
be more productive.”9

I think she is perfectly right. It is time for all of us to get out of our stale,
old comfort zones if this industry is to develop and improve. We need
to do it as women, by questioning, demanding and fighting for equal


Mad Women – A Herstory of Advertising

rights and a balance in creativity and perspective. The men need to do
it by hiring, recruiting, supporting, listening to women; the half that is
missing, the half that ironically enough represents approximately 80%
of purchases and purchase decisions10. It is a strategic imperative for
our industry that it has to change.
In all honesty, the greatest disappointment during my fun and re-
warding career in advertising is that I haven’t seen this change happen
yet. I find that appalling. In fact, I am outraged by it. Just as outraged
as I am every time the Swedish trade press publishes the wage list for
people in advertising, media and PR. In itself this is a silly phenom-
enon, but if their aim is to provoke, they have certainly succeeded with
me. In 2012, there was one single woman among the 31 first names
on the list. Very few women followed; women whom I know well and
who I know perform excellently, loyal workers who deliver well and
win awards, just like their male colleagues. What is this 19th century
crap in the 21st century!? It is so embarrassing, I don’t have printable
words for it.
  I can only hope that change will now come rapidly, for the sake of
women in the industry and just as much for the sake of the men, for
the sake of our clients, our work and our creativity. Note well, I do not
believe that the future lies in matriarchy; let us not repeat the mistakes
that imbalanced dominance bring. I believe that the future is made up
of women and men, on equal terms and with equal pay. And I won’t
stop at that. I truly hope that the future of advertising also includes
more perspectives, more experiences; that it won’t stop at being white,
middle-class but that it will embrace people from all parts of society,
people who have valuable experiences and points of view to bring to
the table, to our clients, to advertising. Ad agencies and ad schools have
to be accessible and welcoming to a broader spectrum of interesting
people. And I agree with Cindy Gallop when at The 3% Conference
she said that creativity is defined as what appeals to men. Open up to
something larger, more inclusive, and I am convinced it will be better,
richer, more interesting and last but not least, more profitable.


Christina Knight

Let me borrow the words of Caitlin Moran to conclude my standpoint
and hopes for the future: ”The idea that we’re all at the end of the day,
just a bunch of well-meaning schlumps, trying to get along, is the basic
alpha and omega of my world view. I’m neither pro-women nor anti-
men. I’m just thumbs up for the six billion.”11

1)A large part of this book was written sitting by my favourite desk in a small village in
Liguria in Italy. I wrote the passage about Hans Christer Ericson there in November 2012
and a few hours later, out of the blue, I received an e-mail from him, asking if I could
please translate a text for him into English (I have kept in touch with him over the years
and have had the honour of translating a couple of his books). I remarked how amazing
it was to receive his e-mail just as I had written about him. He was very pleased to hear
about my book. Only six weeks later, I learned that he died unexpectedly when visiting his
children and grandchildren in New York. I was heartbroken. I will always be very grateful
for everything I learned from you, HC.
2) Based on a study of 280 Swedish Agencies made by Komm, the Swedish Association of
Communication Agencies in 2012.
3) Caitlin Moran, 2012, How to Be a Woman, p. 87, Ebury Press.
4) Ibid p.133
5) The Double-Blind Dilemma for Women in Leadership: Damned if You Do, Doomed if You Don’t,
2007, Research Project, Catalyst,
6) Joan Williams, 2000, Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What To Do
About It, Oxford University Press.
7) Cindy Gallop, 2012, Should you be nice or not to get ahead, Advertising Age, Sep. 24.
8) Ibid.
9) Cindy Gallop, The 3% Conference, San Francisco, 27th Sep 2012.
11) Caitlin Moran, 2012, How to Be a Woman, p. 133, Ebury Press.


The 8th November 2010 was a grey Monday in the city of New York.
In fact, sleet was coming down vertically, so I had to seek shelter in a
coffee shop on 10th Avenue or I would have arrived at Ogilvy looking like
a drowned rat. Obviously not the way to meet the Chairwoman of Ogilvy
New York, the former CEO once named the fourth most powerful woman in
America1 - Shelly Lazarus. I was five minutes early, nervously sipping my
glass of water, when she came whipping round the corner like a panther in
full stride. “Give me five minutes,” she asked, before disappearing into her
office. I knew I had caught the first glimpse of a power lady.

Shelly Lazarus joined Ogilvy in 1971. Her impressive bio told me
she attended Smith College and then earned an MBA from Columbia
University in 1970; the same year she married. I was intrigued to find out
how she first thought about working in the advertising industry.

How come you chose advertising for your professional life?

I can actually pinpoint the moment I decided to go into advertising. I
was in my last year at university and didn’t really know what I was going


Mad Women – A Herstory of Advertising

to do next. My now husband, then boyfriend, was at school in New York
and I was getting a ride to New York with a friend for the weekend. She
was going to this Advertising Women of New York presentation and
asked if I wanted to come along.
  I had never thought about advertising, but I found myself com-
pletely mesmerized. The presentation went on for five hours and I
could easily have stayed for another five. It had never occurred to me
that advertising had a strategy behind it, that there were insights into
what motivates people, so I got really, really interested. I then went to
a meeting that was held at my school by J. Walter Thompson, where
they had a program where you could basically take a sort of advertising
test. It was for women only and you had to create three new advertising
campaigns, improve five others and think of new products to launch.
The prize for the five women who made it was to be a secretary in the
creative department. I must have looked so crestfallen that this woman
said to me: “You know, I bet if you got an MBA you wouldn’t have to
be a secretary.” I didn’t really know what that was, but the more she
talked about it, the more interested I got. I discovered that Columbia
University had a business school and that you could get an MBA and
you could get it pretty fast, actually. So I enrolled, but it was advertising
that had propelled me into business.
  Once I was there I found I really loved marketing. I was an intern at
General Foods, which is now Kraft, and then I took a job, again on the
client side, when I graduated, working at Clairol. To me it was two sides
of the same coin; I could just as easily have joined an agency. I didn’t
make a decision to go to the client side or to an agency, it was just a
ranking order of companies more than making that category choice.
  I actually loved working in marketing at Clairol. It did strike me that
some of the most exciting moments when you were on the product
manager side was when the agency came, because that’s when the ideas
all came to life. You could have all these products, ideas and strategies,
but it wasn’t until you saw the ideas brought to life that you could re-
ally judge their power. We had three agencies, Y&R, FCB and Doyle
Dane and thanks to this I actually developed some understanding of


Shelly Lazarus

what made one or the other strong or not strong. Doyle Dane was all
about creativity, Y&R was all about strategy and FCB was sort of in the
middle. I also remember when I was at General Foods for an intern-
ship and Ogilvy was the agency. I was very impressed by them, but then
in retrospect I thought it was just because they used to present an idea
on big boards with great visuals, when regular people would just have
a conversation.
  So I was happily ensconced at Clairol when I got a phone call from
a headhunter saying that Ogilvy was looking for someone with hair
care experience. I had no intention of leaving Clairol, but I thought,
why don’t I just go over there; I hadn’t seen all my Ogilvy friends from
the summer for two years, so I went over to Ogilvy to kind of say hi
and I just got seduced. They were great people; it was kind of exciting.
I went there with the intention of staying for just two years to get some
agency side experience and then go on and do the next thing. But I
never left!
  I think it is the culture at Ogilvy that has kept me here; it’s quite an
amazing, distinct culture. It’s respectful of people, there is a high level
of integrity, intellectual integrity and objectivity. The means are as im-
portant as the ends. This is not a culture that tolerates bad behaviour,
bad actors. I think it’s a true meritocracy. People often ask me why
women do well at Ogilvy. You know (laughing) people ask me: ”Did
David Ogilvy like women?” Yes, he did, but that’s not why women do
well at Ogilvy, it’s because it is a true meritocracy. The only thing that
matters is the contribution you make and your talent. All those other
extraneous things like where you went to school, what your gender is,
which country you come from or even which discipline you come out
of are almost irrelevant. It’s the contribution that you make. I always
say, women do not need remedial help, all women need is an even
playing field and many of them will be successful.

So, I think it was the culture and the extraordinary group of people
that attracted me. I found it exciting, the people were funny, inclusive
and interesting. Ogilvy was simply a place I wanted to come to work at


Mad Women – A Herstory of Advertising

every day. There was no long-term plan. There was no sort of saying
I’m going to stay here for x number of years or I’m going to become
the CEO. It was none of that, I just loved what I was doing.
  Almost every woman who was at the agency when I arrived had start-
ed as a secretary, all very capable. They were smart as hell and they
had to start as secretaries. At the beginning there might have been one
other woman in account management. There were some few women
in market research and media and some few in creative. While I was
young, the head of the creative department in the New York office was
a woman, Reva Korda. So there were women around and maybe that
was another thing that made it a comfortable place.
  Compared to the 70’s when I started, the advertising industry is now
much more complex, there are so many more options. The whole defi-
nition of what advertising is has changed. Therefore the diversity has
changed; you have all these people in who are digital people or trade
marketing people and they all have to be at the table. I think it has got-
ten to be more diverse; I mean, there are so many more women. When
I first started, I used to be the only woman in the room, most of the time.
This was as true of clients as of the agency. The change in who our clients
are has been remarkable, it has become so much more diverse.
  I think diversity is good because you get a more interesting solution.
More options, more experiences, more different points of view, more
inventive solutions, so, yes, it is better.

When I entered, there were no role models and I didn’t look to men
as role models. I learned from them because they were more experi-
enced, but I didn’t learn from them how to behave like a man. Then,
five or ten years later when there were more women, they did start
to behave like men. The most obvious manifestation to me was they
started to wear suits, you know, with these little soft ties. Why would
anybody dress like that?!
  I think because I had no role models I was completely comfortable
just being who I was. There was nobody who was not aware that I was a
woman and it didn’t make me uncomfortable. You know, there is that


Mad Women – A Herstory of Advertising

great line “If you can’t be brilliant, at least be memorable”. So when I
was the only woman in the room, I was certainly memorable and it was
a huge advantage.
  People keep talking about the disadvantages and that women weren’t
given opportunities. I actually argue the opposite. I was in an indus-
try where most of what we were doing was selling things to women,
because in those days that is what was being advertised. This was a
period of time when women in the US were the main brand decision
makers for everything but tyres. So even for things like lawn equip-
ment, women were definitely the people, if not making the decisions,
definitely influencing the decisions.
  I had power as a woman simply because there was the inevitable
moment in every meeting when everyone would turn to me and say:
“Well, Shelly, what do women think?” Which is absurd, but the truth
was I knew better than anyone else in the room. So imagine the power
you had if you knew how to exercise it in a disciplined way and with a
certain amount of humility. If you actually thought you were talking
on behalf of all women, it would go to your head, so you had to be able
to couch whatever you said, but you could offer some insight into what
women might be thinking at a moment when they are deciding which
diapers to use for their babies.
  The men were willing to listen, although again, when I think back
on it, the surety that men would use in giving points of view about how
women think about things was extraordinary to me. My best example
always was when working with Kimberly-Clark on feminine hygiene.
One man, I have never forgotten this, once said: “You know, there
are lots of ways you can think about your period, but it’s actually the
promise of fertility pulsating through your body.” I don’t think there
are many women who think of it that way!
  I don’t actually think it’s easier to be a woman in advertising today,
compared to the 70’s. It is more natural, so in that way it is easier. But
I don’t think you have the influence or power just because you are a
woman that you used to have.


Shelly Lazarus

Do you recognize what many women describe from meetings; of viewing an
opinion or proposing an idea and having no one respond, only to find that a
man will express the same thing five minutes later and be praised for it?

In any situation like that, there are people who people listen to. I think
it might be almost accidental if they are men or women. In any meet-
ing where there are a number of people present, there are always the
people who are the influencers who everyone turns to, and it depends
on the subject. For instance, I sit in board meetings of public compa-
nies and they will show the board some new advertising or market-
ing program and after the presentation everyone turns to me – and
it is not because I am a woman. It’s because they want my point of
view and I have the experience. But I also think there are certain peo-
ple who know how to say things more forcefully than others. A lot of
women tend to speak in soft voices, and one thing that just drives me
up the wall – and it’s more true of young women in the US – is that
they state things as questions, which means their voice goes up at the
end. That is the opposite of presenting a view powerfully. For example,
a young woman might present herself by saying “My name is Amanda?”.
It signals insecurity and just makes you want to say “I don’t know, is
your name Amanda?”.

Many women I talk to experience that they are often not invited to meetings or
to the table. What are your thoughts on this?

It’s back to the same issue as with speaking up at meetings. I think that
once you become that more powerful voice, you don’t have a meeting
without that person. It’s not male or female, it is how central you are
to the conversation.
  I always tell this story because it was shocking to me. It was not so
much a female thing as a junior one. I did have an experience early
on in my career here at Ogilvy. I had been working with the product
manager on a very specific promotional assignment. The idea, which
I think was probably mine, was to use a magazine centre spread and
put a cardboard coupon in and let people send for samples of this new
shampoo and conditioner in one, to be sent to everybody who might


Mad Women – A Herstory of Advertising

be interested. This was before the Internet, you know! I had taken it
all on, I had thought of it, I was doing it, I got the ad. I was the account
executive and no one above me was paying any attention to this. And
so finally it was going to be shown to the president of the company and
I was going to present it. I was literally walking from the agency to the
client on Park Avenue and my two bosses came along and plucked the
folder with all the materials out of my hands and said “You don’t do
a meeting with the president, we do!”. I’ve never forgotten it. It was
shocking to me. Even if they wanted to come, they could have let me
present it, it was mine. That was wrong. When you think about it, you
would never do it to anyone who worked for you. I stayed quiet and
thought, OK, they felt they needed to do this and I could have done
the moral outrage thing, but I wasn’t sure that was going to get it me
anywhere. Instead, I harboured the experience and decided “I will
never do that to anyone working for me”.

I knew David Ogilvy pretty well. When I came, he was only working
part time and living in France but we got to be friends. He was com-
pletely outrageous, warm and funny. The Ogilvy culture came directly
out of his view about what an organisation should be about. He founded
it with his principles and values and they have stayed until now and I
think one of the reasons for this is that he was such a great writer, he
expressed himself so well. When David Ogilvy says “We abhor toadies!”
you never forget it and you know exactly what he means. He was bril-
liant in that way. He was very focused and he always used to say: “The
only thing you have to worry about is people, everything else takes care
of itself.” Just pay attention to that and everything else follows on from
that. Clients want the best people, the best people do the best work,
that attracts more clients. He is absolutely right, he says: “Don’t make
this complicated, it’s really very, very simple.” And it’s not even focus-
ing on people, it’s focusing on individuals. You know, find the 100 best
individuals and create an environment where they can do their best
work and be successful and happy and that’s all it takes – that’s it.


Mad Women – A Herstory of Advertising

I tell it to my clients too. You want to be the account that everybody
wants to work on. Because that’s the way you get the best people. The
more talented people are, the more choice they have on what they can
work on. So if you were smart, you would make your piece of business
the business they want to work on.
  People ask me if I ever had a mentor but I’ve been much luckier
than that; I have hundreds. I have had some fantastic clients, I really
have, and they have really made it a partnership. I think one of the
things I do, and a contribution I can make, is that I can always see what-
ever we are doing as an agency in a larger business context. Creating
a great commercial is fine, but you really want to understand what it is
going to do to our client’s business, because our real value is that we
do the stuff that drives the client’s business. I have had so many clients
who have let me into their business to see why we are doing what we
are doing and what goals it achieves. You have to have big ears; just
keep your ears big and your mind open, I guess.

When I had my third child, I thought, for a minute, about whether I
wanted to keep doing this or whether to give my undivided attention
to my children, which I never did for the first two. But I decided that
would be too narrow for me. If you have a profession you really like,
you can learn to juggle. I’m often asked when I decided to become a
working mother, which I just find such a ridiculous question; that is a
man’s question. I was loving my job and then I had a baby, but why do
you give up something that you love. If you love something, you find a
way of making it work.
  I say to young women: “The most important employee is your nanny
and yet I bet you don’t treat her with as much respect as you do the
people who work for you in the office. I’m willing to bet that.” It always
startles people, but you have to take that part seriously too, just as we
do in commerce. We pay the best people because they are excellent
and you want them to feel good about what they do. I was always care-
ful about making sure that the nanny knew what her job was. I never
asked her to sweep the floors, I just hired her to take care of the kids.


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