The McCann Time Capsule: Women Rising to Senior Agency Roles. . . in 1959
In 1959, The New York Times ran a story on women in advertising that, given the era, should come across now as being less topical than it does. Headlined “Power That Can’t Be Skirted: More Top Agency Jobs Being Filled by Women,” the four-column story highlighted “the increasing number of women holding executive positions in advertising.” The article led with the win of the Jantzen account by a woman-owned ad agency, Hockaday Associates, and then listed a sample of the many agency female VPs, including two at McCann—Margot Sherman in creative and Dr. Herta Herzog in research.
The story explained:
“For many years, soft goods companies and department stores have hired women ad executives. But only in recent years, particularly in New York and other major cities, have women started to fill executive posts at agencies.
“There is little mystery concerning the increased executive opportunities for women in agencies. Mainly it is part of a general breaking down of barriers by working women in the years since World War II.
“Most women agency executives work in creative departments, particularly copywriting. A large majority of these majored in English in college. Many of them recall that when they started the only women at agencies were secretaries.”
In that era six decades ago, McCann was already one of the leading large agencies insofar as having women in executive positions. As Stephen Fox wrote in “The Mirror Makers,” his history of American advertising. McCann at that time “seemed the most enlightened place for women” among all “the big agencies,” and its six female VPs represented the “highest proportion in advertising.” (But to put that in historical perspective, it was six out of a total of 100 VPs.)
The 1960s, in particular, would be a decade when McCann would promote women into more senior roles. Herta Herzog and Margot Sherman, who were mentioned in the 1959 Times article, would be elevated even further. Dr. Herzog, who headed McCann New York’s research department in the 1950s, became McCann/ IPG’s first female divisional head when she was named Chairman of the Marplan research unit in 1961. Sherman, who was named a Senior VP in 1964, became Chairman of McCann’s Creative Plans Board and the first woman to serve on the agency's board. Laurel Cutler, a creative Senior VP, would also be elected to the board and then move on afterwards to her post-McCann AAF Ad Hall of Fame career that included becoming EVP of our sister IPG agency, FCB. There were also other prominent women executives, especially in creative and research. The writer Wallace J. Gordon, in his memoir about working in advertising in 1962. refers to a scheduled meeting with “Alice Mosely, who’s the second-in-command of New York creatives.” Mosely, who had joined the agency in 1949, was a VP-ACD.
That year, 1949, was in fact one when McCann had already made headlines, literally, for its initiatives with female executives across multiple departments. Both The New York Times and Time magazine carried stories in December 1949 noting that McCann had just named its first women VPs, and in so doing, had not just promoted one, but four at the same time.
As Time magazine said in its Dec. 19, 1949 issue:
“In the advertising world, the quipsters say, every agency has a special back door to accommodate its swarms of vice presidents. Last week, Manhattan's McCann-Erickson, Inc., fifth biggest U.S. agency, had to enlarge its doors. It added four women to its present complement of 40 male V.P.s. The new veeps: Alberta Hays and Margot Sherman, both heads of copywriting groups; Florence Richards, an account executive, and comely Dorothy B. McCann, an executive producer in the radio-TV department and wife of McCann-Erickson's Board Chairman Harrison King McCann.”