March 18, 2023
We begin our Women’s Month series featuring a pioneer who could arguably be considered the Madrina (Godmother) of Hispanic advertising in the US: Alicia Conill. Alicia began her advertising career in Cuba in the late 1950s, as live announcer talent for an agency in Havana, called Mestre Conill. After the Cuban Revolution, she became a Cuban exile in NYC, where she worked as Creative Director for the William Estey Company, on client campaigns for Latin America. In 1968, she and her husband, Rafael Conill, founded Conill Advertising, one of the pioneering agencies in Hispanic marketing that ushered in clients like McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Campbell’s Soups, Amtrak, and many others. Conill Advertising would go on to be the largest U.S. Hispanic agency in that era.
Described as an “energetic and intense dynamo”, Alicia was known for being a talented and persuasive communicator that was highly demanding and strict, yet she was also a joy and a lot of fun to work with. Importantly, she hired, groomed and empowered many women in advertising, including writers, designers, producers, media planners and buyers, researchers and account people; giving them opportunities to go beyond the more stereotypical roles of the “Mad Men” era of Advertising. Today, many women and men in our industry stand on her shoulders, including three of the partners who are alumni of Conill Advertising: Daisy, Gloria and Fernando. We are all grateful for Alicia’s pioneering spirit.