When I was an account executive at Ogilvy & Mather Advertising (way back in 1989), my boss Jane surprised me with the news that I was to be transferred from the Seagram’s™ Wine Coolers account to the Owens-Corning Pink Fiberglas™ account.
It sounded good to me, because I wasn’t glad to be selling wine coolers. On my first day at Ogilvy, I was sent to the photographer who takes each employee’s portrait for the ID card and for various promotional purposes. The photographer, it turns out, was also the person who asks this unexpected question: "What accounts would you refuse to work on?"
"Huh?" I asked.
She repeated the question. It had never occurred to me that there were accounts that I would simply refuse to work on — for reasons of ethics or, I guess, allergies. But I gave her an immediate answer: "Handguns, cigarettes and feminine hygiene spray." She looked up and raised an eyebrow. "It seems like a fraud to me," I explained. She smiled and shrugged.
So they had originally assigned me to the wine coolers account, where we taught entry-level drinkers how to learn to enjoy alcohol. I have nothing against drinking (unless it hurts one’s life), but this account seemed perilously close to recruiting underage drinkers. I mean, really, who else drinks wild cherry flavored wine coolers? So, now, six months later, being moved off the wine cooler account to the world’s most logical account — insulating your attic — seemed appealing.
"But wait a minute," I said. The decision made me curious. "When was this decision made? Did I miss that meeting?"
My boss, a very quick witted, expressive Jane Gundell fell silent. Then, uncharacteristically, she blushed. She was clearly embarrassed.
"It happened in the women’s room," she said quietly.
My response rang through the halls. "Jane, are you telling me that you traded me to Merry in the women’s room? That is outrageous! I feel so cheap. Where were each of you exactly? In front of the mirror, speaking to each other’s reflection? Or were you in the stalls, with the doors closed? Egad!" She laughed as I mocked my protest at such treatment.
Frankly, even though I’ve been traded in the women’s room, I love this industry because of the equal representation of women and men. I have worked for more female clients than male clients. I’ve worked for more women bosses than men, including right now with Mary Kall, Young Isaac’s CEO. Advertising offered women important jobs long before most other industries. I’ve always been glad that advertising has provided men and women a safe, challenging and potentially rewarding place to work. Even if I’ve been traded in the women’s room.