Bye, Bye ‘Mad Men:’ Modern Ad Agencies Seek to Improve Gender Diversity


While AMC’s Mad Men has become a hit — second only to the notorious Walking Dead — the show’s dashing, manly-man protagonist, Don Draper, would be lost in a modern day advertising agency. Between tablets, social media trends, and Keurig machines, Draper would be confused, to say the least. However, what would be most shocking to Draper is women in a position of power, instead of screening his phone calls.

Courtney Buechert, CEO of Eleven, Inc., realized his San Francisco-based agency had a problem two years ago. Great clients? Check. Talented staff of 150? Check. Female creative directors and women in senior management? Hold up.

In fact, in true Mad Men style, all four partners of Buechert’s firm were men.

“We think of ourselves as enlightened, but despite all our good intentions and stated commitment to equality, we weren’t walking the talk,” says Buechert. “We had to rethink everything.”

As a result, Buechert and his partners reevaluated their company model, changing the entire company from the ground up. The company now has a female partner and a female creative director. Of the 42 people who make up their creative department, almost half — 46% — are women, which is far better than the industry standard of 11%.

“What women bring to the work place in advertising is powerful and should never be ignored, men and women think differently. To succeed in today’s advertising world, you must have a level of balance. That balance doesn’t exist without women,” says Darren Eiswirth, Director of Woodlands Ad Agency.
Eleven, Inc. isn’t the only agency evaluating their gender diversity. A number of small, mid-sized, and even large international agencies are restructuring their business operations in an effort to increase the number of women in partner and management positions.

Anthony Reeves, Chief Creative Officer of the Atlanta-based agency Moxie USA, revamped his entire creative team in order to promote more women. “We elevated our creative process by developing cross-functional teams and giving everyone an equal voice in the brainstorming process,” he says. The agency also aggressively recruited more women, resulting in a creative team that is now 50/50 male to female, with 30% of the company’s leadership being female.

Reeves firmly believes the agency is producing better work as a result. “When you have people with a complex array of experiences and knowledge contributing to the process,” Reeves says, “you’re going see better, more innovative ideas.”

Although the so-called Golden Age of advertising may be behind us, a new, more diverse age is only beginning.

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