Advertising is still an industry dominated by men. Women hold just 30% of leadership positions in the ad world, according to data from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising.
That’s why each year we put out a call for entries for our annual rankings for the most creative women in Adland.
From these nominations, paired with our own research, we selected 30 of the most impressive women in advertising followed by an example of their recent work.
Factors we considered included recognition within the industry, seniority in their respective agencies, size of the shop, and standout creative work that’s garnered attention outside of the advertising world.
Our list is by no means complete. But it does feature some of the fiercest talents in the business. Congratulations to everyone who made the list.
30. Margaret Johnson, chief creative officer & partner at Goodby Silverstein & Partners
Margaret Johnson leads the creative department at Goodby Silverstein & Partners. She was named a partner at the agency in 2012 and became the chief creative officer in 2016. At GS&P she has helped turn the agency into one of the industry’s most innovative through smart use of new platforms and technology.
Under her leadership, GS&P has brought a humanitarian edge to the work it produces, such as the unacceptable college acceptance letters campaign to combat sexual assault on college campuses and Tostito’s “Party Safe” breathalyzer chips bag.
Johnson also serves on the boards of the One Show and Facebook’s Creative Council and is a founding member of The 3% Conference. She has won a number of awards and has been part of juries at the ANDYs, CLIOs, and Cannes Lions.
One of the latest campaigns Johnson worked on was a first for Instagram.
29. Danielle Whalen, EVP/managing director CP+B Boulder
After serving as the EVP and group account director on Applebee’s and Fruit of the Loom, Whalen was named MD of the CP+B Boulder. In her time at the agency she’s won more than 300 awards, including a Cannes Titanium Grand Prix.
She’s now responsible for driving the agency forward and maintaining the creative standard the CP+B name has become known for.
One of her recent works was bringing back the Captain Obvious character for hotels.com campaigns, and it became one of the main traffic drivers for the website.
Captain Obvious was originally introduced in 2014.
28. Lora Schulson, director of production at 72&Sunny New York
Schulson leads production at 72andSunny New York, where she has worked on clients including Samsung, Heineken, Land Rover, and Xerox.
Prior to joining 72, Schulson was head of content production at Wieden+ Kennedy New York and co-executive director of content production at Y&R New York.
Her work has been some of the most awarded and memorable in advertising in the recent years, including the re-launch of Southern Comfort and the popular “Whatever’s Comfortable” advert.
One of Schulson’s more recent works for Smirnoff shines a light on the deaf dance teacher Chris Fonseca.
The entire “We’re open” campaign cost over $5 million:
27. Linda Knight, executive creative director at TBWAChiatDay Los Angeles
Knight started her advertising career in Australia, where she was one of the first international hires from Wieden + Kennedy. She then worked for the agency in Portland and Amsterdam before striking out on her own as a freelance creative director and copywriter.
Over the course of her career she has worked with clients including Nike, Apple, Dove, and Adidas.
One of her most recent works was the campaign with James Corden for the Grammy awards.
James Corden took over as host of the Grammys from LL Cool J.
26. Molly Adler, senior creative director at BBDO New York
Adler is the creative lead on Lowe’s Home Improvement and helped it become the most awarded account at BBDO New York. Her work on the brand has garnered awards from all of the major awards shows including the Cannes Lions, D&AD, and One Show.
Adler also works on the other clients of the agency including AT&T, FedEx, and HBO.
Prior to BBDO Adler worked at Fallon and BBH.
The ad tells the story of an emotional relationship between two houses:
25. Lauren Sooudi, brand strategy director at Pereira & O’Dell
Sooudi was at Heat for over five years before joining Pereira & O’Dell as the San Francisco agency’s new strategy director.
At Heat she created the “Sorry Like You Mean It” study to understand why women apologize more and to raise awareness of the gap in gender pay equality. She also worked on clients like Jackson Family Wines, Bank of the West, Dolby, and Teva.
Over 1,500 people participated in the survey:
24. Katy Hornaday, executive creative director at Barkley
Hornaday is the head of creative for Barkley in Kansas City, where she’s been since 2012 when she joined as associate director after stints at CP+B and Mullen.
At Barkley she’s led work for A-B InBev, Hershey, Cargill, Noodles & Company, and Vanity Fair.
One of her recent pieces of work was the first-ever online livestream auction on Periscope. Alongside the creative idea Hornaday was also tasked with building an analytics tool, which Periscope couldn’t offer.
Wingstop did the first-ever Periscope auction:
23. Kay Hsu, global Instagram lead at the Facebook Creative Shop
As the global Instagram lead at Facebook Creative Shop, Kay has been instrumental in getting brands to adopt the Instagram stories format.
Before joining Instagram, Hsu worked in agencies Iris, Huge, and LBI with clients like TOMS, Sony, Diageo, Seamless.com, J&J, and Nike.
During Super Bowl 51 Hsu worked with Bud Light and Buick to run the brands’ first ads in Stories. She also brought brands Pepisco, Ben & Jerry’s, The Honest Company, and Maybelline to Instagram.
It was the first experiment Bud Light did with Instagram’s Stories format:
22. Juliette Geraghty, group creative director at VaynerMedia
Geraghty didn’t start out in advertising, in 2004 she started a theater outreach program for teens living in homeless shelters called Find Your Light.
Her first steps in advertising were made at Digitas as a copywriter before she joined Rauxa and then MCD Partners as the creative lead for Discover Credit Card, Samsung, and E*Trade.
At VaynerMedia Geraghty leads a 30-person creative team on various projects for CPG, auto, and entertainment brands. She works across the New York and Los Angeles teams to create large scale productions, like the launch of the TBS’ Angie Tribeca show.
More than 2,200 pieces of custom content were created in real-time during the 25 hour binge:
21. Amy Ferguson, creative director at MullenLowe NY
Ferguson joined MullenLowe’s New York office when it opened in 2015 to work on the JetBlue account.
She started her career at TBWAChiatDay New York where she revamped vodka brand Absolut. From there she moved to Grey and created the iconic talking baby for E*Trade. She then took the step into freelancing and worked at some of the best creative shops in the city while following her passion projects, which included developing her own line of greeting cards.
Her Flying Babies ad for JetBlue garnered some of the most attention the brand has ever gotten.
JetBlue giving all passengers a discount if a baby cried on a flight became one of the most talked about stunts in 2016:
20. Christy Blain, group creative director at MullenLowe U.S.
Blain is a group creative director at MullenLowe US and the creative lead for Frank About Women, MullenLowe’s award-winning marketing-to-women division.
She began her career at Grey NY, where she created campaigns for Kmart, Post-it Notes, Bluefly, Lands’ End, and Bridgestone. After some time at Publicis, she joined MullenLowe in 2011, where she leads brands, including Hanes Hosiery, Maidenform, Upstream USA, and Ulta Beauty.
With her team Blain wants to transform the American cosmetics brand Ulta Beauty. Through a partnership with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation she’s helped launch a breast cancer awareness campaign that has been running for two years.
She has worked with a number of other brands for which she creates campaigns that market to women. Blain’s work has been awarded a number of times at the One Show, Webby Awards, and Shorty Awards.
Blain also helped open a pop-up shop for the brand that didn’t charge in cash, rather in minutes of breast cancer research.
19. Katrina Craigwell, VP of global marketing innovation at GE Digital
Craigwell has been at GE for over six years. She was previously the company’s director of global content and programming before being named VP of global marketing innovation.
With her team she is responsible for driving innovative storytelling for GE Digital across visual and digital mediums. She’ll often draw on her work as the director of content and programming and looks to leverage new platforms in her work.
Most recently she’s been leading GE’s push into virtual reality, including one video which gives viewers a tour of the brain.
GE’s Neuro was one of the first VR experiences from the company:
18. Lexi VonderLieth, business director at Anomaly LA
VonderLieth is a pro surfer turned advertising exec who now handles the Beats By Dre account at Anomaly LA. She previously had the same role at R/GA, before the brand moved its account to Anomaly.
She’s been involved in most of the major work from the brand, including the “Got No Strings” campaign, which launched Beats’ line of wireless headphones.
In a personal capacity, she also works with fashion brands Donatienne Handbags, Established Jewelry, and La Ligne.
VonderLieth was the most nominated person from 2017.
Be Heard brought together a number of all-star athletes across a variety of sports:
17. Emma Hopkins, creative at Snap
Hopkins started out at Twitter as a presentation designer. When someone needed to get emojis designed she stepped in. That move would launch her career into the spotlight with her work being featured on ITV.
She previously worked with a number of brands including Cornetto, House of Vans, and Coleman’s.
After two years at Twitter she joined Snap’s growing team in London.
Twitter’s emoji were among the first in the social media scene:
— The X Factor (@TheXFactor) August24, 2015
16. Carissa Levine, associate creative director and copywriter at Innocean
Levine has over 15 years of agency experience working working on branding, broadcast, digital, social, and experiential work.
She began her career in Boston at Arnold Worldwide and worked at Ignited and Rosetta. She then joined Innocean where she works on Hyundai. Some of her early work on the automobile brand included working on its sponsorship of the NFL. Over the course of six months she came up with the Super Bowl ad “First Date.”
More recently she has been leveraging insights from football fans to create some of the more recent spots for the car brand.
The ad plays with the sentimental value fans attach to memorabilia:
15. Sanam Petri, creative director at Wieden + Kennedy London
After seven years with R/GA in New York and London, where she worked with Beats by Dre and Nike, Petri joined Wieden + Kennedy London as creative director.
One of her biggest campaigns was the Beats “Show Your Color” campaign, which took over the 2012 Olympics.
At W+K where she’s been tasked to build upon the agency’s interactive capabilities for work with Nike.
The videos from this campaign were real-time responses to a Twitter Q&A:
14. Alica McVey, chief creative officer at Swift
As the chief creative officer at Swift, McVey leads strategy and execution across all of the agency’s clients.
Before founding Swift she worked as a graphic designer and art director. Her background in design and architecture influences all of her work at Swift. She was responsible for the interior and exterior design of the agency’s offices.
Recent work she did for Google included the “Change is Made with Code” campaign, for which she identified and highlighted the work of female innovators.
The Change is Made with Code was debuted to a concert audience of 70,000 people:
13. Laura Fegley, executive creative director at Colle + McVoy
Fegley joined Minneapolis-based Colle + McVoy from BBH New York where she was also executive creative director.
After leading the creative work on accounts like Vaseline, Graco, and Rubbermaid Fegley works on Invisalign at Colle + McVoy.
Her work on the brand helped transform it from a regionally led brand into a global household name.
This was one of Invisalign’s first-ever global campaigns:
12. Aisha Hakim, art director at Venables Bell & Partners
Hakim landed in advertising seven years ago. Since then she produced a Super Bowl ad and helped an agency win its first Radio Mercury Award.
In 2015 she was named to the One Club + The 3% Conference’s list of next creative leaders.
Hakim joined San Francisco agency Venables Bell & Partners in 2015 and works primarily on Reebok. One of her recent ads – “25,915 Days” – for the sports brand was nominated for a Cannes Lion award.
The ad opens with star 60-year-old Debbie Suzuki, who participated in a Grand Canadian Death Race and an Iron Man competition:
11. Robin Fitzgerald, chief creative officer at BBDO Atlanta
Fitzgerald previously worked at two of the most respected agencies in the industry, CP+B and TBWAChiatDay Los Angeles. Some of her most notable work was on clients including MINI, Gatorade, and Energizer.
She joined BBDO Atlanta in September 2016 where she leads the creative works on all clients of the agency. One of her first campaigns at the agency was for the non-profit Baseball for All to help encourage girls to get into baseball.
Her work has been picked up by media outlets like NBC News and NPR and it was even parodied on Saturday Night Live. She’s been on the juries of numerous awards including D&AD, Clios, and the One Show.
The spot wasn’t staged, but shot during the second annual Baseball for All Nationals tournament in San Francisco
10. Sarah Rabia, global director of cultural strategy at TBWAChiatDay Los Angeles
As global cultural director, Sarah Rabia’s role is to help brands and the TBWA network understand the ongoing cultural shifts. She created the editorial unit Backslash, a first in an ad agency, which publishes a new video every day. While it’s not directly client work, the unit has become a source of inspiration for TBWA teams around the world.
Before working at TBWAChiatDay she worked at Mother and BBH in London.
TBWA’s Backslash account regularly publishes short and unique stories:
9. Lauren Perlow, freelance art director
After stints at agencies Lowe, AKQA, Deutsch, TBWA MediaArtsLab, Apple, and 72&Sunny, Perlow became a freelance art director. In 2015 we named her one of the most creative women in advertising under 30.
Since then she has continued to produce excellent work. Perlow worked on one of the most iconic recent Apple spots, starring the Muppets character Cookie Monster. In the past she’s also worked with VW, Target, PlayStation, and Xbox.
As a freelancer she has continued to maintain her relationship with Apple, recently working on the iPhone 7 ad “Notes.”
The UK-focused ads were the first in Apple’s shift to more digital and local ads:
8. Chloe Gottlieb, EVP-executive creative director at R/GA
Chloe Gottlieb was named R/GA’s EVP-executive creative director in March 2016. Prior to that role she built the agency’s experience design team, the largest existing at any ad agency.
Her clients include Nike, Nokia, Verizon, Alvio, and the Ad Council and she has won a number of awards such as the Cannes Lions, CLIOs, ADC Annual Awards, and the ANDY’s.
Gottlieb is also a part of the R/GA accelerator program where she helps startups, especially internet of things companies, develop their branding and communication.
R/GA used a bit of science to create this feel-good holiday campaign:
7. J.J. Adler, director at Tool of North America
J.J. Adler is a director of Tool of North America who’s most known for her work for brands like P&G, SC Johnson, Virgin Mobile, Nestle, Coke, and Verizon.
One of her most recent campaigns was for Girls Who Code, which was awarded at last year’s Cannes Lions Festival. She has worked with brands including P&G, Virgin Mobile, and Nestle on a number of comedy spots.
Prior to her work with Tool, Adler was the head director of The Onion News Network. Her graduate thesis film was a short dark comedy film called “New Media” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won several awards.
Her most recent work was with agency McCann for Microsoft’s #MakeWhatsNext campaign to push girls into STEM careers.
The Microsoft campaign was released to coincide with International Women’s Day:
6. Kathleen Swanson, creative director at Anomaly LA
Swanson was one of the 25 new hires Anomaly brought in after winning the Beats by Dre creative account. She’s one of the only women at Anomaly working on a prominently male sports brand.
She was lead the headphone brand’s Be Heard campaign, which included work with LeBron James, Tom Brady, Serena Williams, and 30 of the world’s best athletes. She also helped bring Diet Coke to the Los Angeles-based agency.
Before joining Anomaly she was at TBWAChiatDay Los Angeles, where she helped the agency win its first ever Digital and Mobile Cannes Lions for Airbnb and helped write the Emmy-nominated “Dear Peyton” film for Gatorade.
The Dear Peyton video for Gatorade was nominated for an Emmy for the most oustanding commercial:
5. Lalita Koehler, executive director of integrated production at Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles
Koehler is a native Brazilian who joined Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles in 2015. As the head of integrated production for the agency, she has spearheaded some of the most creative campaigns from the agency including the first-ever Twitter integration into a Super Bowl TV ad.
Prior to working in advertising, Koehler worked in Silicon Valley at Yahoo before moving to Paris where she worked at TBWA DAN Paris.
One of her latest works was the creation of a scalable billboard in New York City’s Times Square for Toyota’s RAV4 SUV.
By creating one of the most unusual campaigns, Toyota managed to generate significant buzz:
4. Veronica Beach, head of production at DAVID Miami
Beach has been a core part of DAVID’s founding story. She helped open the São Paulo office and then opened the US flagship a few years later.
As the agency’s head of production she works on all of the agency’s clients including Coca-Cola, Burger King, and Kraft-Heinz.
In 2013, she won a total of 25 Cannes Lions and a Titanium Grand Prix while she was at Ogilvy Brazil for Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” and Coca Cola’s “Crazy For Good” campaigns. Some of her work at DAVID includes the “Proud Whopper” campaign.
What better way to advertise condiments than with wiener dogs in hot dog costumes?
3. İlkay Gürpinar, chief creative officer at TBWAISTANBUL
Ilkay has been with TBWA for more than 10 years. In the past six years the agency has grown to be Turkey’s biggest and most awarded.
Ilkay believes in combining local ideas with global production quality, and her creative work is known for generating buzz for some of Turkey’s biggest brands including Ikea, McDonald’s, Beko, Landrover, Akbank, Radikal, and Avea.
She originally started as a copywriter and joined TBWAISTANBUL as creative director in 2006.
With her team, she has won the most Cannes Lions of any agency in Turkey and she has served on the jury of several awards shows including the Cannes Lions.
With a humorous campaign, Amnesty International was able to raise awareness of the judgemental reactions people sometimes have:
2. Myra Nussbaum, SVP, group creative director at DDB Chicago
Nussbaum has over 15 years of experience in brand advertising after having worked at FCB Chicago on clients including KFC, Oreo, and Radio Flyer.
She’s received a number of awards at the Cannes Lions, D&AD, and the One Show for her work with paint company Valspar, which created a pair of glasses allowing colorblind people to see color again.
Nussbaum often uses pop culture references in her work, which will continue to appear in her work for Mars Wrigley at DDB Chicago.
Doing social good through creative thinking:
1. Rachel Mercer, SVP, head of digital strategy and invention at Deutsch New York
Mercer is consistently cited as one of the best creatives in the industry. She currently leads Deutsch’s artificial intelligence efforts in New York.
She oversees all digital and social duties on Sherwin-Williams, Green Giant, and PNC Bank.
For Busch’s first appearance in the Super Bowl, for every fan that tweeted about Busch’s Super Bowl commercial, the brand, via Rachel and her team, tweeted back with various versions of GIFs featuring the brand’s new flannel-clad spokesman, and encouraged followers to share the GIFs from its Giphy page.
Busch’s first-ever Super Bowl was an instant favorite: