Perspectives: Women in Advertising 2018, Madison Wharton

"I hope to inspire the next generation by being fearless, by equipping them with the tools to be the best in their trade, by creating an environment where they can make the best work of their lives but also have a life!"

Madison Wharton
Global Chief Production Officer Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners


Perspectives: Women in Advertising 2018

Tell us about who you are and what your job title is?
I’m Madison Wharton, Global Chief Production Officer at Kirshenbaum, Bond, Senecal & Partners.
Was there a job you had at one point, outside of advertising, that prepared you most for success later in life?
Right after college and in my early twenties I was a tour manager for bands and a booking manager at nightclubs and concert venues. This definitely prepared me for working with creatives, managing crews, negotiating with agents and tough personalities, late nights, budget management and crafty solves in hairy situations.
What do you see as being the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the “glass ceiling”?
When I started in this industry, women had to play like men. The females that I saw in leadership positions hid their personal lives. They never ever let their guard down. We’ve made great strides since then. At Kirshenbaum, I am free to integrate my work life and my personal life into one. I bring my “mom me” to work and my “work me” home. And I see my male colleagues proudly speaking about their challenges and highlights of dad life. I see that as a promising sign that as an industry, we are getting closer to equality.
From Like A Girl to Fearless Girl, a raft of advertising campaigns have set out to empower women. How do you feel about these campaigns? Can they change attitudes within the industry?
I’m very thankful for these campaigns and for the effect they’ve had in our industry and in general. Of course, we should continue to align brands around female empowerment. From the production POV, this means knowing who the female-owned production partners are and getting them into consideration along with female directors, editors, sound engineers, etc. And it means building an environment that allows women to have successful careers in production while still taking time to be a mom or a wife. Producers often have sporadic travel schedules and work hours. But with planning and a strong, supportive team, we can absolutely work in a capacity that allows parents the ability to be a great working parent.
How have the recent #MeToo and #TimesUp movements played out in the advertising sector? Are they making a significant impact?
These movements have made a giant impact on our industry. At KBS, we’ve made a firm commitment to building a safe and inclusive environment for all of our employees regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or age. As an agency, we recently had an honest and open discussion about these movements - as well as DietMadisonAve and how they are affecting our industry. We made a promise to our staff to listen, investigate and act on inappropriate behavior. We feel that education and courageous discussions are important measures to keep all of our staff working in a healthy and respectful work environment.
Initiatives such as Free The Bid are trying to create more opportunities for women in advertising. But what could be done at a more grass roots level to attract women in the first place?
As female leaders, we can change the perception that the advertising industry is a male-dominated world by visiting students in their environments and sharing our stories. We can work with our local schools and tell the students about what we do. Go to the career events like AdColor’s WAATBP and consider female talent from industries with adjacent skill sets like the music industry or the film industry. Recently, I’ve heard stories from young candidates that lead me to believe the advertising industry is progressing in terms of equality, diversity, and inclusion. While I hope every industry can find its way forward, I am happy to meet great talent from unexpected backgrounds and get them on to a path where they can succeed without fear of harassment or discrimination.
Can you reflect on a mentor that helped guide you in your career and tell us what made them special?
Sophie Kelly, my former CEO from Barbarian. Now she’s inspiring others at Diageo. Sophie doesn’t apologize for anything. As far as I know, she’s never been intimidated in her life. She’s loyal, passionate, driven, bombastic and relentless in her pursuit to win. She’s never ever boring. I try to channel her energy every day.
And Michele Prota, our Global Chief Talent Officer. Michele is not interested in meeting the status quo. She only sets the bar. At Kirshenbaum, that means pushing diversity efforts, educating staff, building an inclusive and safe environment in order to help people make the best work of their careers. She does this at a macro and micro-level. She lives and breathes it and she makes us better as an agency.
How do you as a successful woman plan to inspire the next generation of women? In a few words, what advice do you have for women entering the advertising industry?
I hope to inspire the next generation by being fearless, by equipping them with the tools to be the best in their trade, by creating an environment where they can make the best work of their lives but also have a life! By sharing my story of being a wife and a mom of two and celebrating that. By really listening to them and pushing them up when they need support. By letting them speak in meetings and if they’re not heard, asking them to say it again. To push them to achieve things they weren’t sure they could but by giving them the chance to fail and learn from it too. By making it fun! And by making sure they never apologize for being themselves.


Madison Wharton
Global Chief Production Officer Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners