Paying tribute to women on the occasion of International Women’s Day, DDB Worldwide has recreated the agency’s first female copywriter Phyllis Robinson’s most iconic speech using the voices of the women from around the world. Robinson, celebrated for her rebellious creative spirit, was a force of nature. She was instrumental in creating many of the major ad campaigns of the 1940s. Narrating Phyllis’ 1959 4A’s speech are the voices of some of the most outstanding female leaders from around the world, from New York to London, from Colombia to Mumbai, from China to New Zealand — a demonstration of the fact about how salient her words continue to be today.
Honouring all the women within the DDB network, Roisin Rooney, Chief People Officer, DDB Worldwide Global, said, “At DDB, we’re lucky to have so many trailblazing women pushing our business forward and using their talent to drive change not only in our industry but how women are portrayed more broadly. By honouring the legacy of Phyllis, we are also recognising the achievements of all women within DDB.”
Talking about the message the film bears, Nikki Lamba, Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, DDB Worldwide Global, said: “The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge so it’s fitting to celebrate Phyllis, someone brave enough to challenge conventions and advocate for her beliefs. She was an important part of our network back in 1959 and still is today.”
Robinson, who was Phyllis Kenner Robinson, has been widely described as “the first lady of Madison Avenue’s creative revolution”. When on 1 June 1949, Doyle Dane Bernbach set up office, Robinson joined as Copy Chief — in fact, the first female copy chief in American copywriting history. “Copy chief of me”, Robinson would often joke about herself.
In the creative industry, it was Robinson who paved the way for women to break away from traditional creative roles in food and fashion. In the years to come, she went on to help build what was perhaps termed as the “most creative and diverse agency of the Mad Men era”, an agency that sought to break most rules for both men and women alike.
Robinson was born in New York City on October 22, 1921 and from a young age, she showed a keen interest in advertising, most likely inspired by the ads she would read out of her Third Avenue apartment window and roadside signs while going on drives with her father.
Robinson majored in sociology at Barnard College and graduated in 1942. Her first job in her illustrious career was with the Federal Public Housing Authority in New York. In 1944, she married Richard Robinson, who went on military duty soon after. For two years, she followed him across the country, changing six different jobs, including some in advertising. In 1947, the couple returned to New York, and Robinson joined sales promotions at Grey, where Bill Bernbach was then Copy Chief. The rest was history.