Globalizing Ideal Beauty: Women, Advertising, and the Power of Marketing
Denise H. Sutton, PhD
The women I write about in this book were pioneers in the advertising industry. They entered the business world at a time when neither the major business schools in the United States nor the business world accepted women. Many of these women considered themselves feminists: They marched in suffrage parades and had previous careers at major suffrage organizations. They had careers in social work and were part of a progressive urban reform movement, advocating for the poor. Others had careers in publishing and public relations. They were all angling for bigger and better jobs. But once they entered the world of advertising, they promoted the same stereotypical imagery of women that many of them fought against in former careers. Through their wildly successful ad campaigns, these ad women contributed to an image and concept of ideal beauty that traveled beyond the borders of the United States. This is a complicated story because even though they made certain compromises, these women had not given up their feminist goals. They were struggling for their own share of the market in an emerging media—their own place in a business world dominated by men. And in the process, they made a lot of money for the J. Walter Thompson (JWT) Company.
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“I am a huge fan of Mad Men and was excited to hear that a book was written about a group of advertising women at J. Walter Thompson in the early 20th century. The ad women at J. Walter Thompson precede Sterling & Cooper’s Peggy by about thirty years! But the concept is the same: women were hired to create ad campaigns for women’s products. The surprise is just how much women contributed to JWT creatively and financially–making it the most influential ad agency in the US. Even though it was written by an academic, this book reads like a story I couldn’t put down. I really got a sense of the people and work culture at this agency. If you are a fan of Mad Men, you will love this book.”