DDB and Stabilo Boss highlight ad woman Phyllis Robinson


The campaign pays homage to the first female copy chief in the United States on International Women’s Day.

It’s no secret that advertising has been a male dominated industry since it began in Venice in the 16th century, when local gazettes – run by men – offered businesses a new way to reach their customers. 

The industry remained that way until 1949 when something remarkable happened. Her name was Phyllis Kenner Robinson. 

Robinson joined Grey in 1947, where she first met and worked for William Bernbach. Two years later, when Bernbach, Ned Doyle and Mac Dane formed DDB, one of their first executive decisions was to recruit Phyllis as the agency’s first chief copywriter. 

In that role, she crafted many campaigns for the agency’s first notable clients, including Volkswagen, Polaroid and Ohrbach’s. She also made advertising history, becoming the first female copy chief in the United States. 

To celebrate International Women’s Day, DDB and neon highlighter pen manufacturer, Stabilo Boss, are honoring Robinson and her pioneering career. The work builds on Stabilio Boss’s 2019 Highlighting The Remarkable campaign, which literally highlights images of remarkable women in history.

“Throughout history, women have been upstaged and their successes have been overshadowed by the men surrounding them,” said Roisin Rooney, DDB global chief people officer. “Considering the pivotal role Phyllis played in so much of DDB’s iconic work, it was the perfect campaign extension to bring to life for International Women’s Day.”

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #BreakTheBias, which inspired DDB to place a spotlight on Robinson and her illustrious legacy. Robinson not only challenged the biases in the advertising industry herself, but advocated for female talent and embarked on a career that would open the doors for more equity in advertising. 

“She was an important part of our network and continues to inspire a new generation of women today,” said Nikki Lamba, DDB global chief diversity, inclusion and equity officer. “We continue to pay tribute to Phyllis through programs like The Phyllis Project, a global creative initiative committed to increasing the number of female creative leaders and carrying on the culture of Freedom she instilled back in 1949.”

As part of the campaign, DDB will continue to share the spotlight with the agency’s female leaders across its 149 offices, much as Phyllis did in the formative years of DDB. The campaign will continue to be supported by global social outreach featuring female leaders of the DDB Network, sharing what #BreakTheBias means to them and how Phyllis inspires them today.

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