Mad Men And The CLIO Awards: How Much Has Really Changed Since 1965?

While you prepare ingredients for an old-fashioned in anticipation of Mad Men‘s season premiere this Sunday, let’s take a quick look at how much the advertising industry has changed since the days of Mad Men.

The CLIO Awards, arguably the world’s best-known advertising honors, will have its 54th annual ceremony on May 15. This year’s 10 juries are led by, count ’em, 10 men. Just 16 of the 69 other jurors are women, and only two of the panels have an equitable male-female balance (kudos to “public relations” and “digital/mobile/digital technique”).

If that wasn’t enough, CLIO’s main advertising image on its homepage features a man split up into sections, each section representing “what creatives wear to the CLIO Awards ceremony.” And apparently creatives wear things like a “hideous jacket designed by [a] hot but untalented girlfriend”

Doesn’t sound like the CLIO Awards are trying very hard to represent women in their advertisements for the award ceremony. Which might have been fine in a world where the CLIO Awards didn’t have a history of excluding women.

Mad Men fans, remember Season Four’s episode, “Waldorf Series,” in which Peggy Olson wasn’t invited to the CLIO Awards despite the fact that (spoiler alert!) it was her idea that won her company a CLIO? Remember how the award ceremonies seemed like a men’s cigar lounge?

In the last year of the 20th century, Advertising Age made up a list of the most influential people in the “advertising century.” There were eight women listed out of 100 spots—the highest woman on the list was given a slot at No. 14–alongside her husband.

Fourteen years later, women are still prominent in advertisements but generally left out of the business of leading a team to create them. Only about 3 percent of ad agencies in the U.S. have a female creative director. Not to mention how, in at least the last three years, CLIOs were given out overwhelmingly to ad agencies  led by men.

Maybe the CLIO awards are clinging to their women-excluding history in honor of Clio, the Muse of history, for whom the awards were named.

Mad Men‘s Season Six kickoff should feel like a peek into the past. Instead, it feels a little like a glimpse into how little the advertising world has changed since the ’60s.

Photo of billboard featuring Mad Men advertisement via Flickr user amira_a under Creative Commons 2.0


Ponta Abadi, a graduate of the University of Oregon, is a former Ms. intern. Follow her on Twitter.