The McCann Time Capsule: Joan Lipton and the UN's 1975 International Women's Campaign
In 1975, the United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8th as part of that year having been proclaimed as International Women’s Year. In that same year it also turned to Joan Lipton, a creative VP in McCann New York, asking her to put together a team to create an ad campaign in support of International Women’s Year.
Lipton was one among the high-profile female creative leaders at McCann in that era. In 1975, she had been named an American Advertising Federation “Adwoman of the Year,” an award given to “women who have greatly contributed to advertising through their own accomplishments and through their support and guidance of others in the field.” (She was the second McCann person to have received that award; Margot Sherman, who retired as creative Senior VP and Coordinator of Consumer Affairs in 1971 after a 34-year career with the agency, had won it in 1958).
In addition to heading creative on five accounts at that time (including Tampax, Best Foods, and Simons Hide-A-Bed), Lipton was very active in the industry. Elected to the New York Women in Communications’ Matrix Hall of Fame in 1979, she had also served as the organization’s president. She was an officer and board member at Advertising Women of New York (now She Runs It) and then was one of the 20 or so prominent women in advertising and marketing featured in the short film AWNY created for Women’s History Month in 2001. She also participated in advertising seminars for undergraduates at various schools and universities.
As for the 1975 UN campaign, the McCann newsletter at the time noted that Lipton “formed a team of volunteers in vice president/ account supervisor Doug Johnson, writers Jean Kondek and Elaine Saxon and art director Joe Grey, who decided the direction they wanted to pursue was toward men.”
Kondak explained at the time why they decided to aim it at men. “Male prejudice—any prejudice—is a composite of a lot of little fears,” she said. “If a person would just analyze even one of his or her fears, think openly about it, we would have more equality.”
The campaign, which used the overall theme “Promote Equal People,” included headlines such as the one in the accompanying artwork — “It takes longer to change minds than it does to change laws.” The long copy in that ad laid out the case:
“We have succeeded in passing some legislation to improve conditions for women. Under the law women are allowed more job opportunities. And more educational institutions are giving women equal advantages. But changing attitudes is more difficult than changing laws. There are still many barriers for women. Men still vastly outnumber women in most professions. And despite the fact that men and women are equally affected by our country’s problems, the big decision-making is left to male politicians. Because many of us, if we admit it to ourselves or not, still find it difficult to accept women in other than traditional women’s roles. And it’s not only women that suffer from this attitude. Everyone does. Because when we deprive women of their right to contribute equally to society, we deprive society of the important contributions women can make.
“Laws and our cultural background have allowed men to get there first. But it’s 1975. And we can’t afford to waste woman-power any longer. Let’s change our minds while we change our laws.”