The Moving Target - Marketing to Women in the 1970s

31 August 2018

Cultural Studies | Gender and Sexuality | History

Rena Bartos was named Senior Vice President at the J. Walter Thompson Company in 1977 and was an influential figure in the advertising industry. She was highly regarded for her pioneering work on marketing to women, a concept she called ‘The Moving Target’.

The Moving Target, 1974 - Rena Bartos - Reproduced with kind permission from Duke University © J. Walter Thompson. To see this document in the collection click the image

‘The Moving Target’ focused on changing perceptions of women in the 70s; it was designed to help advertisers recognise the shifting roles of the modern woman, encourage them to portray her more realistically in the media and sell to her more effectively as a consumer. J. Walter Thompson: Advertising America showcases Bartos’ ground-breaking research on the female consumer through her speeches, articles and publications. The Moving Target booklet presented here would have supported Bartos’ presentations to JWT clients and other advertising leaders at industry events. It reveals the challenges Bartos faced in convincing the (mainly male) advertising industry to revaluate their perception of women’s roles at home and at work.

The Moving Target, 1974 - Rena Bartos - Reproduced with kind permission from Duke University © J. Walter Thompson


As well as revealing how advertisers in the 70s thought about women, The Moving Target includes statistics that challenged the stereotype of the American housewife and shone the spotlight on the emerging cohorts of women who didn’t fit the established mould. Bartos showed that in 1974, while 34% of women were married with children, an equal 34% were neither married nor had children; 27% of married women had no children and interestingly, there was a growing number of women with children but no husband. Bartos used these figures to show advertisers why they needed to change their marketing tactics to reach this quickly evolving market. She told them to look ahead and aim where the target is going, and not where it’s been.

The Moving Target, 1974 - Rena Bartos - Reproduced with kind permission from Duke University © J. Walter Thompson


Using savvy marketing techniques, Bartos writes as if in a Q&A session with the client, recreating the persuasive rhetoric she would have used in her speeches. As the publication goes on and her arguments hit home, her job now isn’t to convince the client to accept that women’s roles are changing, but to teach them how to reach this new market. And this is where J. Walter Thompson come in…

The Moving Target, 1974 - Rena Bartos - Reproduced with kind permission from Duke University © J. Walter Thompson

Bartos uses ‘The Moving Target’ to promote JWT’s strategies for understanding the female consumer. She deftly demonstrates to prospective clients how, as their chosen ad agency, JWT will help them identify and speak to their new female consumer and earn a share of this growing, lucrative, female market.

The Moving Target, 1974 - Rena Bartos - Reproduced with kind permission from Duke University © J. Walter Thompson

For more information on J. Walter Thompson: Advertising America, including free trial access and price enquiries, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

About the Author

Ellie Davey Corrigan

I am a Development Editor at Adam Matthew, having joined the team in 2015. My academic background lies in Classical History and Languages but as an editor in academic publishing I have worked across a variety of subjects from Business, Marketing and Gender Studies to International Relations. I am enjoying getting back to my historical roots working on a wide range of new projects at Adam Matthew.

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