It’s the end of an era at Wunderman Thompson. Ginny Bahr, who joined the agency 69 years ago as a secretary and hasn’t looked back, is retiring.
According to the agency, she’s its longest-serving employee. Bahr joined the shop long before its 2018 merger with Wunderman, when it was still known as J. Walter Thompson.
Wunderman Thompson said Bahr first joined the agency as a receptionist in 1951 and has since served as secretary to many of its past vice presidents and CEOs. The agency said she also had the opportunity to work on accounts including Ford, PanAm and Shell throughout her career.
More recently, Bahr told Adweek she’s mostly been “doing secretarial work” in the agency’s treasurer’s office. As for why she’s retiring now, she said, “I guess it’s about that time.”
Bahr said she stopped going to the office in February after an elevator accident left her with a broken shoulder. Shortly afterwards, everyone at the agency started working from home due to Covid-19, so she hasn’t been able to return since.
“I never got back because everything started changing. I certainly am going to miss the company,” Bahr said. “I have so many memories. I enjoyed the people I worked with. I have no complaints.”
Bahr said her favorite memories at the agency involve singing in J. Walter Thompson’s choir, which she said performed throughout New York City during the holiday season.
“I loved those times,” she said.
In 2017, she served as J. Walter Thompson’s virtual “SXSW correspondent,” a gig that involved offering up quippy commentary and highlights from the conference at the agency’s New York office via a video series called Midtown by Midtown East, or “MXME.”
As someone who worked in advertising during the “Mad Men” era in the 1960s, Bahr said she wasn’t involved in—or even privy to —the debauchery that’s come to define that time period. Still, she admitted that she occasionally heard things through the grapevine.
“Many times, people thought I probably knew all about [those days], and I’m embarrassed to say I never really did know much about them,” she said. “At any rate, those days were pretty racy, and as I said, I was aware of them but not involved. I never went on any business trips with the guys.”
In terms of what’s changed since she first started, Bahr said people dress much differently than they once did in the office.
“It’s much more relaxed,” she explained. “Nowadays, it’s nothing when you see women in slacks and occasionally shorts. Men are dressing very differently. They all wear jeans, usually. It’s a lot more casual. I guess that’s good, because then you’re more relaxed in what you do.”
Bahr also remembers a time when female creatives were a rare breed at the agency. According to Bahr, they differentiated themselves from other women with hats and sometimes gloves.
“They always wore hats and were dressed to the T,” she recalled. “There was a definite difference.”
As her career comes to an end, Bahr’s advice for her younger colleagues is simple: “Relax. Enjoy it and realize that you’re pretty fortunate to have joined a company like [Wunderman] Thompson.”
To commemorate her retirement, the agency pulled together a short video that highlights her many accomplishments, such as spearheading the agency’s blood drives. In it, former and current agency executives share stories and what it’s been like working with Bahr.