My friend Chris Kyme, who runs kymechow.com in Hong Kong, kindly invited me to the New York Festivals, to listen to some of the visiting speakers.
I found myself in one which, within five minutes, was driving me insane.
There were four women on the stage talking about how hard it is for women in advertising. And, why there are “so few women in creative departments.”
I think it may have been the most pointless talk I ever attended. A room full of ladies complaining about why more of them weren’t in creative.
I was aching to ask many questions. But I couldn’t think of polite ways of phrasing them and so – as I was merely a gatecrasher at this event – I quietly left. Then started to fume.
And not because of what was said or what it meant to me – but because of the effect it might have on any young women unfortunate enough to have been listening to those people.
The inference was: “it’s unfair”. There “should be “ more women in creative departments. Clients “should have more women working on their accounts”. Women “should have more senior positions” in creative companies.
It felt like a televised late-night left-wing whine-fest, held in the most left-wing reaches of North London, in 1972.
I’ve worked for a number of great lady creatives: Linda McDonnell, Judy Smith at my first company (in the early 1980’s). And have met and worked with many successful, highly-awarded female creatives both in the UK and the US. Barbara Nokes, Cathy Heng, Alex Taylor, Lynn Kendick, all come to mind quickly. All of who I’d consider more creative than me. And none of whom ever played the “I’m a woman, ipso facto I deserve a job in the best creative departments.”
They were just very good writers and art directors.
There are very many great female creative people.
And, if we’re going down the awful “minority” route, I know a bunch of very good African American, Asian, gay, extremely-tall, over-weight, short, very good creative people. One of the best writers I met was African American and legally blind (Tom Burrell). In Saatchi, London, in the 90’s one of the most ‘creative’ people in the building was a man who was black and quite seriously disabled. He was a riot.
NONE of the these folks ever got where they got to by shouting “It’s unfair” and appealing to Mr Obama to ‘set a quota’ of how ad agency creative people should be comprised, by sex, sexuality, color, race, religion, or hair style.
You will get to the top (of good agencies) if you work hard and you have talent.
I am aware that agency creative departments can be tough. It is a tough job. And any attempt to make it any less so, will simply mean the “greatness” of that place will shift to another company.
Whenever I’m hiring, I have zero interest what the person looks like, where he or she comes from, what they do in their spare time. I just need them to “get it” and to get on. At McCann in the 90’s I hired a man, a fabulous art director, who was over 70 years old. He was the most productive person in the company. Period. The great Derrick Hass.
If – as a young and impressionable person in advertising – you fill your mind with ideas of “entitlement”. If you think you deserve stuff, if you feel you “should” have things you have not earned, please, please go into Real Estate or produce reality TV shows for similarly minded folk.
If you wish to come in advertising, if you wish to succeed, if you wish to try to be “truly great”, please do this:
– Don’t listen to whiners.
– Don’t have an “entitled” attitude. (Mr Obama won’t be in power for ever..)
– Be careful what you consume and whom you listen to – whom you allow yourself to be influenced by.
– Listen to (truly) successful people.
– Don’t identify yourself as being “gay” or “Irish” or “black” or “female” or “thin”. Think of yourself as a thinker. An observer. A craftsperson. A communicator.
– Read Paul Arden’s books.
– Subscribe to Dave Trott’s blog:
(I think Trott is the most useful voice for anyone wishing either to get into the business, or to get far in the business.)
Folks, don’t make excuses.