Diverse Creative Juries Matter

Bravo 2015 Milwaukee Film Festival, September 24 – October 8.

The Festival’s juries reflect a diverse community. All but one panel had a person of color or a woman. Two panels had two diverse jurors.

MKE film

Looking at data from the Women’s Media Center there are fewer women producers, directors and scriptwriters then there are women in advertising creative departments. Our advertising community might want to take a page from the Festival’s playbook.

Leadership matters. Diversity matters.

Bravo Milwaukee Film Festival.


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3% is now 11% or maybe 14%. These numbers are appalling.

Jean Grow, Professor of Advertising Marquette University, 3%Conference London, 12Jun2015, photographer Bronac McNeill

Jean Grow, Professor of Advertising Marquette University, 3%Conference London, 12Jun2015, photographer Bronac McNeill

I just got back for speaking at the London 3% Conference. 250 creative people gathered to hear speakers explore the problem of too few women in creative. Unfortunately, we could count the number of men in attendance on both hands. And there in lies one of the problems.

Yes, Nick Bailey (CEO & ECD Isobar), Nils Leonard (Chairman/CCO, Grey), Russell Ramsey (ExCD, JWT) and Darin Rubins (CEO, PHD) spoke, sharing great wisdom. But guess what? They didn’t stay. And that’s a problem. Unless the dire lack of women in creative is embraced as a problem by those at the top, little will change.


Source: Jean Grow, State of (dis)Union, 3% London 12 June.

So here are the numbers in Europe – they are not pretty.  And in the Britain women make up only 13.9% of creative departments and just 8.1% of all CDs. So why did the men leave? They are busy, no doubt. But really, is this just a women’s issue? The data says, no. Women drive more than 80% of all consumption decisions. Top that off with data from Kat Gordon, founder of 3%. 71% of women feel brands consider them only for beauty and cleaning products (they may have a point). 73% feel advertisers don’t understand them (no surprise there). So gentlemen, why didn’t you stay?


Source: Jean Grow, State of (dis)Union, 3% London 12 June.

According to Kat Gordon (and studies from Harvard) the 11 most destructive words for the future of creativity are: “Doesn’t matter who does the creative, as long as they’re good.” 20.3% of women in creative and 14.6% female CDs, globally, is simply not acceptable. Here’s the bottom line, diversity and inclusion is a competitive advantage – and it needs to be leveraged by the advertising industry. Now.


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Hermosas Palabras. Beautiful Words.

I am revising the final chapter – the survival chapter – for the fourth edition of Advertising Creative. In this chapter we speak the truth about the challenges women and minority creatives will face in advertising. To do this well, one has to go to the source. So I reached out to my friend Laurence Klinger, EVP Chief Creative Officer at Lapiz. True to who he is, Laurence did not provide me with his words. Rather he reached out to the talented team of creatives who work at Lapiz.

I am humbled by the power, wisdom and beauty of their words.

Embrace your competitive advantage and believe in yourself. When someone asks you where you want to be in 5 years – reach for the stars, not the next level.  ANNETTE FONTE

Women and minorities should speak more and loud! Their opinion always comes with a different perspective and it is normally undermined because of prejudice. GUILLERMO BETANCOURT

Studies have shown time and time again well-sounding advice -“lean in,” “speak up,” or “act like a man” – usually ends up in the same result: harsh consequences for said minority/woman. I think the best thing we can do is get the Quintessential Man in Power to open up his eyes about his own biases and prejudices. INES BELLINA

The game is rigged right now against both minorities and women. There is no way of succeeding in advertising in the same way as a White male. Change begins when we acknowledge how gender roles are fostered in families. KELLI SZYMCZAC

It’s on us, women, to take the lead in voicing our opinions, our dreams and aspirations, as well as, pushing back and questioning the “norm.” ISABELA VILLALOBOS

To prepare for success women and minorities need to learn how to negotiate. NATHALY GAMINO

Your standard of work (and of self-presentation in general) needs to be higher than that of other people. FELIPE DIAZ ARANGO

More exposure of actual or current women and minority creative leaders is essential to grow a new base of leaders. They cannot be what they cannot see. DIEGO FIGUEROA

In order to prepare women for success in leadership, we have to first break down these preconfigured stereotypes. In order to do this, we must promote workplace equality and build the awareness that women are equally capable of performing the role typically assigned to a man. TERESA CUEVAS

Women and minorities in creative need to have more mentors (guides who are willing to aid their development) and sponsors (people in power who are willing to advance their careers). From day one. RENETTA MCCANN

Give women (and minorities) projects to lead and ask them to get creative, that you want to be surprised, and they are the ones to do it. CRISTINA GRIECO
Working together, we are a big number of the population and therefore a real power, a real change. I believe that if women help others, we can change the power structure of our world and expand opportunities for all. LUCILLE GRATACOS

Being self-aware is key. Maybe college should focus a bit more on helping women and minorities find their inner strengths and develop their confidence. ANA MATTA

I hope my class on Gender in Advertising for the Inside/Out and the fourth edition of Advertising Creative begin that process.


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Creative Women in Peru: Outliers in a Machismo World

photoFor the past two weeks my co-author, Dr. Marta Mensa from Piura University, and I have been crafting a paper highlighting the stories of the Peruvian creative women Marta interviewed. Our research explores relationships with colleagues, chances for advancement, and how creative women balance their professional and personal lives. The results clearly demonstrate that Peruvian creative women, who make up only 3% of all creatives in Peru, are truly outliers in a machismo world.

Like creative men, creative women have little time for life outside of advertising creative. Unlike creative men their personal life is made an issue at work. When asked about her work/life balance one woman responded, “You only ask me about this because I am a woman.” When it comes to the personal lives of creatives there appears to be a double standard. For women, children are a workplace concern. Yet, men are rarely questioned about  children. One woman described the vulnerability women, who might want to become mothers, feel. “When I joined the agency, I realize that two (creative) girls had just been fired. One of them had just given birth and the other had a son. They (male colleagues and creative director) felt that a child was too distracting for creative woman.” In our study all by one women felt having children – or even being married – was not an option if they wanted to work in advertising creative.

StudentsFinding women to talk to was not easy. In fact Marta found only eight creative women willing to be interviewed, as speaking about their struggles was itself risky. Their hesitation is grounded in reality, for creative women are marginalized and often harassed. As one women said, I worked in my first advertising agency and my boss harassed me!… He sent me messages, asked me out on dates, called me into his office to discuss issues that had nothing to do with work, he often told me I looked beautiful…. In some moments, I thought about leaving the agency, but I liked my work.”

The experiences of these creative women suggest that their relationship with males peers is very challenging, indeed. “My creative (male) colleagues tend to segregate me. Sometimes they do not tell me about a new client. When I’m with them they do not share ideas. It’s when I leave when they start to release ideas between themselves. Then I get mad and I confront them.”

Confronting their difficult situation often comes to no avail. Thus, it is no surprise that the average age of the women interviewed was 28 and that the average length of employment was only 3.5 years. Nor is it surprising that chances of promotion are severely truncated for women. One woman described her experience this way, “I felt the most discrimination from the creative director. He did not listen to my comments and always gave more importance to what my male colleagues said.” There comes a point when you just give up and leave. It appears that for Peruvian creative women that point comes sooner rather than later.

A final note. I would like to thank Marta for sharing her wisdom. While here at Marquette she gave seven presentations and a two-hour radio interview – along the way she observed five classes. Her generosity, wisdom and charming wit were gratefully appreciated by all those she touched. Piura University is fortunate to have her.

Adiós y gracias, Marta. Te extrañaremos!


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Gold in Milwaukee

Sometimes you just have to brag about your students.
Last Thursday at the Milwaukee 99 Awards Show Marquette took home two student awards – including Gold.
HeiserEmma Kolb, Anthony Virgilio and Alex Lahr won an honorable mention for Stronger Together a TV spot done for Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, which was their senior campaigns class client. Emma is now a freelance photographer working in Los Angeles. Anthony is an Integration Coordinator at Laughlin Constable. Alex is a Junior Copywriter at Thirsty Boy.
Nick Heiser won gold for OCD, a non-traditional promotional campaign to raise awareness about mental health, part of a project for the Mental Health Association of Milwaukee. Nick is an Associate Art Director at BVK.
I could not be more proud of these young professionals, and the strength and success of Marquette’s Fine Arts Program, which I direct.
I hope they invite me when they win at Cannes!


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Educational Opportunity for All

This really does matter.

Vicki Madden’s op-ed in today’s New York Times is worth a read. As she says, “In spite of our collective belief that education is the engine for climbing the socioeconomic ladder — the heart of the ‘American dream’ myth — colleges now are more divided by wealth than ever.”

Joanna Neborsky

Joanna Neborsky, New York Times

Do only the wealthy have bright, inquisitive minds? I think not.

I am first generation college having grown up in a blue-collar, middle income family. As I graduated from high school earning a PhD was not something on my horizon. However, after an adventurous journey involving three prior careers – two of which involved the advertising industry – and four institutions of higher education, here I am. Yet today, for young people of modest means, the climb up the educational ladder is steeper, longer and fraught with many more challenges. In fact, from 1990-2012 there has been little change in the enrollment of students with less resources. Moving forward it looks as though little will change.

Successful advertising involves speaking to consumers with a resonant voice. How can we do this when the industry does not reflect the diversity of the American cultural landscape? (Nor does it reflect the diversity of the global cultural landscape.) Change must involve a serious commitment to hiring a diverse pool of talent.  Change must also involve a commitment to getting behind educational opportunities for all. That, in fact, may be our next biggest challenge.


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Czechs: The Code of Contradiction

I say black. You say white.                                                                                                                                               You say beer. I say wine.                                                                                                                                                        I say happy. You say sad.                                                                                                                                                You say dog. I say cat.

And always with a knowing wink and an ironic nod.


McCann croppedThis is the Czech Republic. A country and culture of contradictions, the meanings of which are often inaccessible to outsiders. For the past ten days I have immersed myself in the Czech Republic. I explored Prague (it is too beautiful to miss), Brno (it is too desolate to disregard) and Beroun (it is too quiet to forego), each with ethnographic treasurers abound. I visited three ad agencies: Leo Burnett, McCann and Ogilvy – Agency of the Year, and two global clients: Mondelez and Unilever.

The more I learn about Czech culture the more normal the awards wall at McCann appears.

It is my third visit and still the cultural contrasts, the irony of nearly all things surprise me. This land was invaded and occupied during World War II, and on and off in the centuries that preceded the war. World War II was followed by a brief glimpse of democracy from 1945-48. Then communism arrived. Not until the velvet revolution of 1989 did the Czechs breathe anatomy and freedom. Its history fuels a deep and abiding cultural distrust, with displays of apathy from silence to brusque irony. But the truth behind these markers is not what you think.

As Clotaire Rapaille, author of The Culture Code, has said, people do not tell you what they actually think. Czechs are no different. But they are more extreme in this regard. No self-respecting Czech will tell you his or her personal truth. In fact, no self-respecting Czech is even likely to admit to speaking English, unless they are working and it is required or they know you. And even then, there will always be a wink and a nod.

This is not just an us versus them behavior. It is a cultural norm that pervades interactions among themselves. I once termed it “cultural shyness.” It may be. But on my third visit I have come to think of it as an all too knowing nod to the absurdity of their history, to life as they know it.

It shows itself in their advertising with over the top ironic self-deprecating humor. Consider Bohemia chips sending a Czech guy to Austin Texas, behaving ridiculously while handing out bags of Czech potato chips unavailable in America. It bubbles up in a barrage of characters and creators in sectors we Americans would never dream of. How about a cheetah (think Tony the Tiger) for Gepard mortgage services? And it reveals itself in the repackaging of the Clavin capsule (Czech Viagra) in the upright position. These are Czech, spreading joy wherever they go.

BrnoSuffice to say that the contradictions that surround you as you travel this lush land are beloved. They amuse the Czechs. And so, there is no surprise when riding the bus across the country the attendant rattles on in Czech, while the screen in front of you provides the following English translation: “Dear Passengers, please pay attention to the announcements that is being broadcast. Thank you.” You smile and think, but of course.

Nor was I surprised when in Brno two beautiful baroque buildings frame a lovely modernist structure. Indeed its colors compliment its neighbors and the rectangular shapes on the facade rather musically play off the windows of the adjoining buildings. Yet, it is a massive contradiction to the nearby structures. It is so Czech. B Esclator

In the end it is the escalators in Prague’s metros that perfectly signify the Czech cultural code of contradiction. The stairs move at one speed, while the rail travels at an all together different speed. But, of course, it is subtle. Keep your feet on the step and your hand on the rail and – with a wink and a nod – you will arrive at your destination on your face or your derriere, surly not upright.

In the Czech Republic you must always chose. In the metro the Czech generally choose their feet.


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