Sara Sunshine, 1936 -
Sara Sunshine often found herself in rooms full of people unlike herself. As a Cuban refugee and a woman in New York’s advertising industry in the 1960s, she cracked the glass ceiling in a profession with few women in leadership roles. She did pioneering work on diverse markets,arguing that Latinx communities in the United States had buying power.
In the era of Mad Men, Sara Sunshine started her career in advertising as a copywriter. A hefty dictionary, which she always kept on her desk, aided in choosing words creatively and carefully. Unlike women in Anglo-owned agencies on Madison Avenue, Sunshine had more opportunities to rise to the top in Hispanic advertising.
SAMS, like many larger ad agencies, sent Christmas cards to clients to keep them connected to the business and show off the agency’s work for a variety of brands. This card sports fun caricatures of everyone at the agency, including Sara Sunshine.
Sunshine and the Spanish Advertising and Marketing Service promoted products that crossed borders and reminded recent migrants of home. Café Caribe, a coffee account handled by Sunshine, sponsored Today in Puerto Rico with Mariano Artau on the New York radio station WHOM.
Sunshine applied what advertisers called “the woman’s touch” to ad copy, speaking with a woman’s voice—even if the message replicated stereotypical gender roles.
Women advertisers often wrote copy for “women’s products.” Sunshine was no different. The unique thing was that she could create bilingual advertising when that was a very new concept in the United States. She also taught Madge the manicurist Spanish for the television spots!
SAMS handled the Spanish-language branding for Palmolive. Colgate, the parent company, had a long history of advertising in Latin America.
Sunshine made it to the top of the early Hispanic advertising industry, if not Madison Avenue, winning the first Clio award given to a Latino-owned agency.