Is The Advertising Industry Today Still A ‘Mad Men’s’ World?

Peggy: I don’t wanna make a career out of being there so you can kick me when you fail.-Mad Men

With the premiere of the 5th Season of Mad Men this Sunday the focus will be back on those crazy kids in the advertising industry. The hit AMC show which started in the 1950s and is now in the 1960s not only paints a vividly different view of the way men and women interact with eachother, especially in the workplace, but also it shows us an industry as glamorous as they come. Schmoozing with clients from all over the world representing historical and beloved companies, traveling, three-martini lunches, three-martini cocktail hours, parties all the time, working drunk, etc., But we wanted to know is the advertising industry still as fun as the way Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner has depicted it as and do men still rule the roost?

As far as the men and women imbalance things seem to have improved, in certain areas of the industry. Women continue to make up approximately half of the advertising workforce but account for only 15.1% of managing directors or chief executives, according to a survey by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising survey of the media buying, advertising and marketing communications sectors. The percentage of women at the top has more than doubled from 7% in 1998, but as of 2006 it had only increased by  one percentage point since 2004. At a broader management level female representation in the industry was 26.8%. Women are severely under-represented in senior management positions in the UK advertising industry as well, according to a report by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising.

The IPA, which represents agencies accounting for more than 80% of the sector, found that the media, marketing and advertising industry is dominated by young, white men (hmm, that sounds familiar.) Only about one in 20 of those working in the sector is over 50, and about one in 10 is from a non-white background. While the report found that there is an “almost equal” split between the number of men and women employed in the industry, females accounted for just 22.4% of those judged to be in a management position at an agency. The IPA pointed out that this was, at least, up on 2009′s figure of just 20%.

Susana Cascais, a 16-year vet of the advertising industry, is managing director & principal for Frank Unlimited in Seattle.

“It’s become Balkanized. Some departments, namely media and client services, are now dominated by women. The creative side remains a men’s club, and some agencies still go through regular “Mars/Venus” culture shocks, although it’s lessening. But women have shown themselves to be strong business leaders, and advertising is one area where we¹ve been able to make a mark. Client relationships are still central to any agency’s stability, and with the old Mad Men, martini lunch days over and done with, relationships now are grounded on mutual respect and team work. These are traits in which women excel.”

Ann Potter of Janes Works Co. told The Grindstone:

“When I graduated in 1998, I worked for an advertising agency, the Martha Felt Group, that only dealt with technology-based clients, more or less a field still dominated by men. Martha Felt was the founder, and was still there when I started. The majority of our management were women. In fact, there was only one man in upper management, out of six. Out of the entire firm of 30 people, only three were men. In my experience, there was no difference between working for a woman or a man; there was no additional compassion, no slack, no difference whether you were working for a man or a woman. There was an air of either produce or hit the road. It was intense to say the least, and that intensity started at the top, with Martha herself.”

Jennifer Personette, Vice President of Client Services and Accounting for the Agency San Diego, told The Grindstone:

“Account Management and Account Planning (strategy) departments are dominated by females. Females are detail oriented and are able to cross industries a lot easier than males. (Think, a guy working on a tampon account. OR a woman working on a Viagra account. — nine times out of 10 the guy is squirmy and uncomfortable.)”

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    • LCT

      The Biz. Dev. director at my small agency is a woman, and the account people are all guys (except for me). We’re a pretty conservative company, as far as creative ones go, and our CEO is pretty close to a teetotaler, so the few of us who drink do all our boozing after hours.

      • co

        Conservatives hate women.

    • co

      All you had to say was, “No, well sort of” or “Things have changed somewhat.”