She’s Been Through It All: Ginny Bahr From Wunderman Thompson Retires at 93

Ginny Bahr, the longest standing employee at JWT/Wunderman Thompson, retires after 69 years at the agency.

出自 Dasha Ovsyannikova

Wunderman Thompson
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First off, congratulations on being the longest standing employee at Wunderman Thompson! Please tell us a bit about your background and how you ended up at JWT/Wunderman Thompson.

I appreciate your interest. It has been a while since I joined the agency. After junior college, I had a year of business school. My 1st job was with a publishing company in NYC, an easy commute from home (Westchester County). My boss was a chain smoker, and we sat across from each other in a small office for three years, and it got to me. I wanted a change. I took a brush up business course and started to look for a new job. J. Walter Thompson had a terrific reputation, and I was fortunate to be hired as a secretary that December, just before the holiday season. 


How has your role changed over the years?

I’ve been moved around a lot. From the Greybar Building to the Lexington Avenue office. I worked with different agency executives and account teams over the years and had different assignments with each. And while most of my earlier years were in the account area, I also added a part-time receptionist job for several years. I worked the late shift at the desk and got to meet a lot more people than I would have in my regular job. I always liked working with different people and just went with the flow. 

The machines we use in the office have changed a lot. When I first started, we had a plain old typewriter and a telephone. Everything was done by dictation, taking notes in shorthand and we used carbon paper to make copies. No printers then. To make some client calls, we went through a switchboard operator. The machines may have changed over the years, but the people and the work itself seems the same to me.


During your time at JWT/WT, you worked on a range of accounts, including Ford, PanAm, Shell, and Rolex. Are there any campaigns that are especially dear to your heart?

It’s hard to say. The Kodak displays in Grand Central Terminal occasionally showed our work, and I was so proud to see them when I came into the city. Lever Brothers was a favorite account, and if I remember correctly, Luxe Soap was one of the brands we promoted. There have been accounts like PanAm, Liggett Myers, and Ford, and we also did some great work for the Marines.


What are some things that have stayed consistent at JWT/WT?

The people have always been terrific. I worked with a lot of great people, all different ages & kind of out-going type people. I also had a lot of good bosses. There just was something special about the company and the work we were doing. I think you have to like people to be in this industry and this is still true.  


How has the industry changed from when you first started? 

The dress code has changed. When we first came, you had to be quite dressy. All women dressed in the same way. Skirts, stockings, and heels. I remember the women copywriters always wore hats to work. It’s what made them stand out. In recent times it’s not unusual to see women dressed in jeans and long pants. It’s a lot more casual now but I think this is a good atmosphere. Things are more relaxed and natural. You can get more done if you are comfortable.

Also the smoking. I worked at a publishing company for a couple of years before starting at JWT. It was just my boss and myself sitting in a very small office and he smoked all the time, which got to be very uncomfortable. I don’t remember people at JWT smoking at their desks, but I know people had their packs of cigarettes out and there was a smoking room employees could use. When clients were in the office, executives made sure any competitor brand cigarette packs were put into desk drawers and kept out of sight.  


Now that you are retired, what will you miss the most about JWT/WT?

I already miss going into the office and seeing everyone and meeting new people. The people I got to work with were all so great. If I had a question or needed help, there was always someone around to ask. The day to day camaraderie was good. We were there for a reason, and we liked working together. I am going to miss my friends at JWT/WT and sure hope we can stay in touch.