Jane Newman will never forget that phone call. It was seven years ago, shortly after she began to raise eyebrows as a hotshot researcher at a British advertising agency. When she picked up the phone, a distant voice said, "You probably haven't heard of me, but my name is Jay Chiat."
Of course she had heard of Chiat. His Venice ad firm, Chiat/Day, ranks among the most successful on the West Coast. Chiat told Newman that he was interested in the research techniques she had developed in London. He wanted to talk with her about a similar job in his company's New York office.
She got the job, all right. And last week she finally got something else--the title of chief executive. Newman, 40, was named president and chief executive of Chiat/Day's New York office. For years that office has played second fiddle to its West Coast counterpart, but this year the New York operation outshone its California sibling when it won numerous advertising awards for its Nynex and Arrow Shirts campaigns. Newman, who is directly responsible for $150 million of the agency's annual billings, is one of only a handful of women in the nation who hold such a responsibility at a major ad firm.
"It's odd, because it's never been my goal to run an office," said Newman, who was one of the New York office's first employees when it opened in 1981. "My only real goal has been to do really great advertising."
Many of the estimated 150,000 women who work in the U.S. advertising business would gladly trade their Agency Red Books--the industry bible--to be in Newman's place. The fact is, only a few women ever get to run a regional office of a major ad firm. And how many women will ever see a major ad agency add their name to the agency's official corporate name? Well, last month Louise R. McNamee saw hers placed on the newly renamed New York ad firm, Della Femina McNamee WCRS. Both Newman and McNamee are rarities in a profession whose upper ranks are still dominated by men.
Why do so few women make it to the top in the ad world? "Most agencies are overly sensitive to possible client reactions (to women at the top) than to the realities of the situation or the capabilities of women," Jay Chiat said.
Now it appears that the unhappiness of women professionals in the industry is reaching a near-boiling point. Survey results released Monday by the trade magazine Adweek indicate that a growing number of women in the advertising business are unhappy with their titles, displeased with their salaries and generally pessimistic about their prospects for advancement.
More than 3,000 women nationwide responded to the sixth annual Adweek survey--nearly 50% more than have responded before. Slightly more than 85% of the women surveyed said they "have to work harder than men to achieve the same positions." Nearly half the women said they were underpaid. And the notion of ever reaching top management isn't even wishful thinking among many young women who are just entering the field. Only 14.5% of respondents in their 20s said they ever expected to reach top management.
"The reality of the ad industry is there are very, very few women in top management," said Maryanne McNellis, editor of the West Coast edition of Adweek. "In the Los Angeles ad community, you can count them on one hand."
One of those is Nancy Shalek. She owns the Shalek Agency, a Los Angeles firm that creates advertisements for Gilbraltar Savings, Gotcha Sportswear and KABC radio. The agency, which she recently purchased from ad firm W. B. Doner, posts annual billings of more than $22 million.
But Shalek is not all that sympathetic to gripes expressed in the Adweek survey. "Some women have a chip on their shoulders. They are always out trying to prove something," she said. "Being successful has more to do with being comfortable with yourself. Then you can make other people comfortable with you and your abilities."
Another colleague generally agrees with Shalek. "I don't know if most women really want to bite the bullet," said Joan McArthur, who was recently named senior vice president and creative director at the Los Angeles office of Ogilvy & Mather. "Realistically, a woman with two children is not going to compete with say, a Michael Eisner (chief executive of Walt Disney Co.), who probably works 18-hour days."
But McArthur says the creative end of the advertising business "has always been more forgiving" by allowing more women to advance to the top. That, she says, likely played a role in her rapid advancement at her former agency, Wells, Rich, Greene, and at Ogilvy, where she was only recently doing free-lance work. Still, she adds, "although women have now been accepted in middle management, there is still a 'glass ceiling' that stops many of them from getting to the top."
While women may be running into that glass ceiling at many Los Angeles agencies, lately they have been at the helm of the city's largest organization of ad agencies, the Advertising Club of Los Angeles. And last week, Lois Miller, president of the marketing research firm Miller/Stone, was named president of the group. Although the organization has had only three women as presidents in its 76-year history, she is the second woman to hold the post in the past four years. "This would seem to indicate things are changing," Miller said, "but unfortunately, not many women are heads of the big agencies in this town."
As a result, a growing number of women are leaving mid-level positions at the larger agencies and opening their own ad shops. "A lot of women just don't want to put up with the bull," said Scherr Lillico, president of Los Angeles Advertising Women, a support group for women in the business. About 20 of the club's 100 members own small agencies or media businesses, she said.
"Sure there are some changes, but they're happening a lot more slowly than most women would like," said Lillico, who owns The Proper Image, an Encino public relations firm. "Los Angeles is supposed to be one step ahead of the rest of the country," she said, "but in this case, it may be a step behind."
Matthews Relinquishes Ad Group Leadership
For 10 years he has called the shots for the nation's most powerful association of advertising agencies.
Now, Len Matthews, president of the American Assn. of Advertising Agencies, is calling it quits. "I've always been critical of people who never knew when to get out," said the 65-year-old chief executive in a telephone interview. "It seems to me 10 years is long enough."
Matthews, whose replacement hasn't been named, leaves at a time of great confusion in the industry. For the past two years many U.S. ad agencies have either merged with other American firms or been gobbled up by such British advertising giants as Saatchi & Saatchi and WPP Group. "It's a very chaotic period," said Matthews, whose Washington trade group has 760 member agencies. "The United States is used to being the world's leader in advertising, but we're not really in control any more."
Reality: Soap Opera Digest Kills Campaign
When Rolling Stone's lawyers talk, Soap Opera Digest listens.
At least that was the case last week when Soap Opera Digest killed a new print advertising campaign that was a parody of Rolling Stone's popular "Perception vs. Reality" ad campaign. In a strongly worded letter, Rolling Stone lawyers warned Soap Opera Digest that the parody campaign was more than a parody--it was a virtual rip-off.
In question is a two-page ad that, under the headline "Perception," shows a middle-class mother at the grocery store shopping with her overweight son, a thumb-sucking daughter and a cart full of groceries. On the following page, under the headline "Reality," that same picture again appears.
Typically, the Rolling Stone print ads have used those same headlines, but with radically different pictures--such as a hippie versus a clean-cut executive--on each page. There was, however, one recent exception, when Rolling Stone ran the same picture of singer Bob Dylan on both pages. And that's why Rolling Stone decided the two ad campaigns were too similar.
"We hadn't seen that particular ad," admitted Gerry Ritterman, publisher of the soap opera buff journal, which boasts a biweekly circulation of more than 1 million. "But I think Rolling Stone is taking itself a little too seriously. They should know that parody is the highest form of compliment."
Hill Holliday Readies for L.A. Competition
Once you've run the Boston marathon, can the Los Angeles marathon be any more difficult? Perhaps it can be when--instead of a 26.1-mile race--it is a contest for survival in the competitive advertising business
A 20-year-old Boston agency, Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, is about to open a Los Angeles office. The question is, can it survive a race that has already lost some big-time runners over the past year?
The agency's executives think they're in it for the long run. Earlier this month, Hill Holliday was put in charge of creating a $50-million ad campaign for Nissan's future line of luxury cars, Infiniti. And last week executives from the agency spent several days in Los Angeles talking advertising strategy with Nissan officials.
The agency has yet to create its first ad for its new client. But already John M. Connors Jr., president of the ad shop, is openly talking about snatching even bigger business for his agency. "It took us 20 years to win a $50-million account," said Connors, "but I bet we'll win another one that size within 12 months."