If you’re a direct response copywriter, you probably started your career by studying work from the industry greats. David Ogilvy, Gary Halbert, Eugene Schwartz, John Carlton, Gary Bencivenga… the list goes on.
All of these copywriters are true icons and their work is well worth studying. But besides all being genius marketers, these copywriters have one thing in common – they’re all men.
So what about famous female copywriters?
While advertising has long been considered a male-dominated industry, there have been many amazing women who’ve helped shape copywriting into what it is today.
Here are 10 top female copywriters every marketer should know about:
1. Helen Lansdowne Resor
Helen Bayless Lansdowne Resor wasn’t just a genius copywriter, she was a true pioneer in the advertising industry. She’s been credited as the first woman to design and implement national advertising campaigns, and her work at J. Walter Thompson Co. helped to establish the agency as a female-friendly organisation that challenged its competitors to follow suit.
Lansdowne Resor was known for her innovative “feature story” writing style that closely mirrored the editorial content of the magazines where the advertisement copies were published.
Helen and her team implemented numerous copywriting methods that remain in use today, such as incorporating testimonials, crafting copy that resonated with a customer’s deepest desires, and illustrating a vision of how life could improve after using a product.
Lansdowne Resor is also well known for her contribution to the use of sex appeal in advertising through her 1911 print advertisement for the Woodbury Soap Company. The ad, which features a woman with a fair complexion being touched by a man, was accompanied by a headline that read, “A skin you love to touch.”
The slogan became so popular that Woodbury used it until the 1940s! Many decades later, Resor is remembered as a legend who helped to pave the way for women in advertising and beyond.
2. Shirley Polykoff
Shirley Polykoff was a prominent copywriter, especially known for her campaigns that targeted women. Her work for Clairol hair dye, in particular, was a game-changer in the industry.
She created the famous slogan “Does she or doesn’t she? Only her hairdresser knows for sure,” which spoke directly to women’s concerns about dyeing their hair and encouraged them to feel confident and empowered.
Polykoff created another classic line for Clairol, “blondes have more fun,” as part of a campaign in the 1950s. The campaign was ground-breaking because it directly addressed women’s desires to change their hair colour and have more fun in their lives. The line became so popular that it is still used today in various forms of media and advertising.
Polykoff’s success with Clairol and her ability to connect with women on a personal level made her a trailblazer for female copywriters in the industry. Her impact on advertising has been long-lasting, with many of her campaigns still being studied and admired by advertising professionals today.
She was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame in 1982, and her legacy continues to inspire and influence the advertising industry. Polykoff is also considered to be one of the main inspirations for Peggy Olson, a copywriter on the TV show Mad Men.
3. Mary Wells Lawrence
Like Shirley Polykoff, Mary Wells Lawrence is said to have inspired the character of Peggy Olson in Mad Men. After starting her career as a copywriter at Doyle Dane Bernbach, Lawrence quickly rose through the ranks and became the first woman to found and lead a major advertising agency, Wells Rich Greene. Her agency was responsible for some of the most memorable and successful ad campaigns of the 1960s and 1970s.
One of Lawrence’s most famous campaigns is “I Love New York,” which she created in the late 1970s to promote tourism in New York City.
The campaign featured a simple, yet powerful, logo that became synonymous with the city and remains popular today. The campaign helped revitalise New York’s tourism industry after a period of decline and is still considered one of the greatest ad campaigns of all time.
Another memorable campaign that Lawrence is responsible for is the “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is” campaign for Alka-Seltzer. The catchy jingle and memorable tagline became part of popular culture and are still remembered today, decades after the campaign originally ran.
Overall, Mary Wells Lawrence’s contributions to the advertising industry have been significant, and her legacy as a pioneer for women in the field is still celebrated.
4. Frances Gerety
If you’ve ever bought or received a diamond engagement ring, it’s because of Frances Gerety. Gerety revolutionised the diamond industry with her iconic campaign for De Beers, creating one of the most recognisable slogans in advertising history – “A Diamond is Forever.”
Before the campaign, only 10% of first-time brides received diamond engagement rings. Gerety changed this by making diamonds “the symbol of true, indestructible love.” The campaign was so effective that by 1990 more than 80% of engagement rings in America were diamond rings.
Gerety’s slogan has been used in basically every De Beers ad since 1948, and it still resonates with consumers today. In 1999, Advertising Age named “A Diamond is Forever” the slogan of the 20th century, cementing Gerety’s place in advertising history.
5. Caroline Jones
Caroline Robinson Jones was a true trailblazer in the advertising industry. She began her career as a copywriter trainee at J. Walter Thompson in the early 1960s, becoming the first African American woman to hold that position at the agency. Jones later worked for other major advertising firms like BBDO before starting her own agencies that focused on minority advertising.
Jones’s success in the industry was due in part to her ability to create effective campaigns that resonated with Black consumers. She worked with numerous well-known brands, including American Express, McDonald’s, Prudential, Toys “R” Us, KFC and L’Oréal. Her campaigns, such as Kentucky Fried Chicken’s “We Do Chicken Right,” and L’Oréal’s “Because you’re worth it,” became globally recognised and are still used today.
Jones was a true champion for diversity and inclusion in the industry, and her contributions to advertising will always be remembered.
6. Phyllis Kenner Robinson
Robinson was a copywriter who left an indelible mark on the world of advertising. Her career began at Bresnick and Solomont before she joined Grey Advertising, where she worked for William Bernbach, who would go on to found Doyle Dane Bernbach. Robinson and her art director Bob Gale were there from the very beginning, and Robinson became DDB’s first-ever chief copywriter.
Supervising a team that included Mary Wells Lawrence, Robinson oversaw a vast number of campaigns that are still remembered to this day.
Perhaps her most famous campaign was the iconic “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s Real Jewish Rye” campaign for Henry S Levy and Sons. Robinson also worked with notable clients such as Orbach’s, Polaroid, El Al Airlines, and Volkswagen.
In fact, Robinson’s work on Orbach’s was what brought the VW Beetle to DDB. The “Think Small” and “Lemon” Beetle campaigns kick-started a creative revolution and cemented Robinson’s status as one of the greatest copywriters in advertising history.
7. Margaret Fishback
Margaret Fishback worked as a copywriter for various advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where she worked for over a decade. During her time at J. Walter Thompson, Fishback wrote some of the agency’s most successful campaigns, including the “I’d walk a mile for a Camel” campaign for Camel cigarettes in 1929. The campaign was an instant hit and helped establish Camel as a popular cigarette brand.
Fishback’s clever and catchy slogans, like “More Doctors Smoke Camels than Any Other Cigarette” and “Have a Camel, Relax,” became a part of popular culture and are still widely recognised.
In addition to her success in advertising, Fishback was also a talented poet and writer. She published several books of poetry, including “The Wasn’t-It-Beautiful Poems” in 1936 and “We Have Tomorrow” in 1941. She was also a regular contributor to popular magazines such as The New Yorker, Harper’s Bazaar, and Life.
Fishback’s talent as a copywriter and poet earned her recognition and admiration in the advertising and literary worlds.
8. Barbara Proctor
Barbara Proctor is known as a pioneer in advertising as the first African American woman to own an advertising agency in the United States. Her career in advertising began in the 1950s when she worked as a copywriter at a small ad agency in Chicago. In 1970, Proctor founded her own agency, Proctor and Gardner Advertising.
Proctor’s work in the industry included creating the first television commercial targeted to African American audiences for the cosmetic brand Flori Roberts, and the first national campaign for the hair care brand Afro Sheen.
Her agency also worked with clients such as McDonald’s, Sears, and Xerox. Proctor’s dedication to diversity and inclusion in advertising was evident in her hiring practices, as she intentionally sought to employ women and minorities in positions of leadership within her agency.
Proctor’s achievements in the advertising industry did not go unnoticed. She received numerous accolades throughout her career, including being inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame in 2019, over a decade after her passing in 2008.
9. Alex Cattoni
If you’re looking for famous copywriters working at the top of their game today, then Alex Cattoni is definitely on the list. She has achieved remarkable success in the industry due to her unique and innovative approach to creating high-converting sales funnels.
With her in-depth knowledge and experience, she has worked with some of the biggest names in the online business world, helping them to achieve greater success through powerful and compelling copywriting.
In addition to her impressive professional achievements, Alex Cattoni has also made a significant impact on the world of YouTube. She runs a highly popular channel on the platform where she shares her expertise and insights on copywriting, marketing, and business.
Her videos are engaging, informative, and packed with valuable tips and strategies that have helped countless people improve their copywriting skills and grow their businesses. With over 250,000 subscribers and millions of views, Alex Cattoni has become a true leader in the industry and an inspiration to many aspiring copywriters.
10. Laura Belgray
Laura Belgray is another wordsmith who’s held in high regard in today’s copywriting circles. She started her career as a writer and producer for television, but soon discovered her talent for writing compelling copy.
Over the years, she has worked with a variety of clients, from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, and has built a reputation as one of the most sought-after copywriters in the industry. Laura does a fantastic job of infusing humour and personality into her writing (her email list is well worth joining if you haven’t checked it out already).
In addition to her copywriting work, Laura Belgray has co-created an online course, The Copy Cure, with Marie Forleo. The course teaches entrepreneurs how to write better copy and improve their marketing skills.
With her conversational writing style and her ability to connect with her audience, Laura has become a go-to resource for entrepreneurs looking to improve their marketing and branding efforts… as well as copywriters looking to improve their way with words.
These are just a few of the famous female copywriters who have helped shape the history of copywriting. From the early days of advertising to the modern digital age, women have played a crucial role in the development of the industry.
Their unique perspectives, creative talents, and innovative approaches have helped create some of the most memorable and effective advertising campaigns in history.
Today, women continue to make significant contributions to the field of copywriting, and their influence will undoubtedly be felt for years to come.