March 17, 2017

MAD Black WOMEN: Eastern Michigan University marketing professor Judy Foster Davis publishes book on pioneering African-American women in advertising

This image, circa 1979, shows Gloria Monroe working at the Creative Library at J. Walter Thompson’s NY Office on Lexington Avenue. (Photo: J. Walter Thompson Co. Archives, Duke University.)

Mad Men. Over the last decade, is there a more crisp, memorable label in the entertainment world? So much has been written, and lately shown on TV, about the men and women who shaped the advertising industry.

But what about black Mad Women? Eastern Michigan University marketing professor Judy Foster Davis has delved into that question, noting that the contributions of African-American women to the advertising business have largely been overlooked.

professor Judy Foster Davis
Judy Foster Davis

In her new book, “Pioneering African-American Women in the Advertising Business: Biographies of MAD Black WOMEN,” Davis traces the path of trailblazing African-American women who launched their careers during the 1960s Mad Men era. Several went on to achieve prominent careers, including the establishment of their own successful advertising agencies.

In fact, a main subject of the book – Carol H. Williams, was recently invited into the Advertising Hall of Fame – the ad industry’s equivalent to an Oscar for lifetime career achievement – the first black ad agency woman to receive such an honor.

Williams built her career on the line "Strong enough for a man – but made for a woman." As a student at Northwestern University, she attended an American Association of Advertising Agencies’ class and landed a summer job in 1969 at the Leo Burnett agency. Thanks to her tagline for Procter & Gamble Co.'s Secret anti perspirant, and one for Pillsbury’s "Say hello to Poppin' Fresh Dough," she eventually became the agency's first female VP-creative director.

Now president, CEO and chief creative officer of Carol H. Williams Advertising in California, she remains one of most respected figures in the business.

Along with Williams’ story, Davis chronicles the nature and significance of other black adwomen’s accomplishments - including Michigan native Caroline R. Jones, Barbara Gardner Proctor of Chicago and Joel P. Martin of New York City - examining the opportunities and challenges they experienced and exploring how they coped with inequities common in the advertising profession.

“Based on their words and memories, this study reveals experiences which are intriguing, triumphant, bittersweet and sometimes tragic,” says the publisher’s note on the book. “These women’s stories comprise a vital part of the historical narrative on women and African-Americans in the advertising business and are instructive not only to scholars of advertising and marketing history but also to future generations of advertising professionals.”

“These ad women’s accomplishments remind me of those women featured in the movie Hidden Figures,” said professor Davis. “They too were college-educated black women who entered professions in the 1960s, which were not allways welcoming. They went on to serve in groundbreaking and trailblazing ways that elevated the profession and provided role models for future generations of professional women.”

On February 22, Davis presented her book research at Duke University, as part of the 25th anniversary celebration of the university’s Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising and Marketing History, in connection with their theme "Women in Advertising” and the occasion of Black History Month.

The Hartman Center, created in 1992, is a major archival depository of materials concerning all aspects of marketing history. It holds an extensive collection of more than 3 million items that document the history of sales, advertising and marketing throughout the past two centuries.

At Eastern Michigan, Davis chairs the faculty committee overseeing the online Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) master’s program. Her research interests concern integrated marketing communications strategies and policies, historical and multicultural marketing topics and online pedagogy.

She earned a bachelor’s at Howard University in Washington, DC, then her master’s and doctorate at Michigan State University. Courses taught at EMU include advertising, promotional strategy, consumer behavior and IMC strategies, ethics and regulations.

Contact Geoff Larcom,, 734.487.4401

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