The Mad Women (and Man) of Envision Creative Group: Austin based creative firm bucks industry hiring trend with female dominated staff
Recently, Mad Men, the popular AMC TV show about a fictional Madison Avenue advertising agency set in the 1960s, concluded its fifth season, but its iconic style and fashion continue to influence trends all the way from New York’s Madison Avenue to Austin’s West 6th. Envision Creative Group, an Austin, TX based marketing and design firm, embraces the show’s creativity and style but bucks some of the historically chauvinistic tendencies in the ad world by representing a new era for women in the agency world. Recently, Envision Creative crafted and starred in a “Mad Women (And Man) of Envision” photo shoot as a nod to the show they watch together and comment on during group lunch breaks. The goal was to showcase just how similar and yet unique the Envision Creative Group is when compared to Mad Men’s mostly male executive staff and many of today’s modern agencies. Envision Creative contrasts dramatically by having a staff consisting of just one lone male, Envision Creative’s CEO and Creative Director, David Smith. The rest of the Envision Creative roster consists of a power-house of six strong, educated, artistic women (a Vice President, a Director of Communications, a Director of Business Development, two graphic designers and one administrative assistant.) Each member possesses a strong drive for client satisfaction and success. The team at Envision Creative Group hopes that their “re-touched” picture of ad men and women success empowers other minorities and women in business to seek, succeed and excel in traditionally male dominated roles.
In the latest Mad Men season, more changes were made in regards to the position of women and the hiring of African-Americans. But, sadly, walk the floors of any creative department today and, apart from the clothes, little has changed. According to the latest IPA figures, there are still almost no blacks, or Asians, 80 percent of creative staff are male, just one in five top management are women and you can count on one hand the number of female creatives. What many of the agencies’ management will tell you, particularly creative, is that they can only employ from those who turn up for jobs. They also say racial and ethnic minorities don’t apply to agencies and few women seem interested in creative jobs. But this has not been the case for Smith. “We receive portfolios and resumes every day and I make it a point look at as many as I can. I only hire those that I think are the bet candidates…all of the best candidates happen to have been women,” stated David Smith, President and token man at Envision Creative Group.
In a Business Insider article entitled What the Women of Madison Avenue Really Looked Like in 1963, the reporter, Laura Stampler, shared this:
JWT (J. Walter Thompson) published a booklet in 1963 titled “Advertising: A Career For Women,” to lure college women to Madison Avenue—and not just for its secretarial pool. JWT’s recruitment book was progressive but it also reflected some of the stereotypes of the era—particularly when compared to JWT’s other booklet, “Advertising: A Career For Exceptional Men.” In the male-oriented booklet, the text reads: “There are probably as many forms of advertising—and as many facets to it—as there are leaves on a tree.” For women, there are as many different kinds of advertising “as there are soap flakes in a box.” Women often worked on soaps and other lady-friendly accounts. It was far less likely that a woman would go on to pitch to auto and other “male-oriented” companies.
“My husbands grandmother was a secretary in Manhattan in the 60’s so I think of her a lot when I watch early episodes of the show,” shared Stephanie Silver, Envision Creative’s Vice President and Account Manager. “There weren’t many options for women at that time so she felt lucky to have a job which looked to be a great career opportunity at the time. Looking back at my career, I identify with Peggy the most. I have never allowed my age or gender to be an obstacle but am truly thankful that I live in a time when I don’t have to.”
“I can’t say that I’ve noticed any troubles with being a woman in the creative field…. at least as a designer. I have noticed it a little bit more with Steph Silver,” Shared Sarah Beattie, Envision Creative graphic designer/copywriter. “She holds a position of power that I occasionally think that some male clients don’t recognize. There have been the odd times that Steph has told a client one thing, and they go to Dave to talk about it. Whether it’s because he’s the actual president or because he’s more trusted because he’s a man, I can’t say. It’s just an observation.”
“As far as the character Peggy, the copywriter in Mad Men, felt about trying to act like a man to fit in….that’s simply not a problem for us,” said Beattie. “Not that any of us ‘try to be men,’, but we are just as crude, sexual, dirty and alcohol driven as most guys and we like it that way,” she says with a laugh. “We might even be worse than Dave!”
Although Envision Creative group currently has no males on staff besides Smith, he is not opposed to adding males to the all female cast and welcomes all genders to apply to be a part of the Envision Creative team. “We’ve had a couple of guys on staff over the years. They were talented, dedicated workers and we still enjoy working with them when the opportunity presents it’s self. I’d love to have a bit more testosterone around here. If the applicant is up to par or exceeds my expectations, we’d be happy to add another man to the mix.”
“It might do us some good to hire a male designer,” reflected Beattie. “Simply for a different perspective. I LOVE the women I work with and it’s amazing that none of us are bitchy and we don’t get into little tiffs…. ever! It’s pretty incredible. We are blessed for sure! But I’d like to see what a dude might bring to the table. I definitely don’t think that a primarily female team is detrimental, but having a male’s perspective could only add to what we already have going.”