Last fall I sat on a panel at a 4As conference on transformation. Despite a woman as moderator, my fellow panelists were all white men. Last month at the Mirren conference in New York, I joined an innovation panel. Once again, the panel had a woman moderator but four male participants.
At Colorado University, speaking at the annual Innovator Series, I discovered I was the fourth white male in four years. (My suggestion to the audience was to refuse attending next year unless the series featured a woman.) And more recently at a Google creative council, the industry creative leaders who attended numbered 14 men and no women. One woman had been invited but didn’t show.
Farrah Bostic, a senior planner at Digitas in New York, with support and encouragement from the likes of Cindy Gallop (they both had a hand in assembling this useful list) and others, has been keeping tabs on the ratios of men to women on the advertising industry’s panels and juries. Her assessment of The Effies, the Clios, the Jay Chiat Awards and others reveals numbers that are abysmal. For some reason, in an industry that’s filled with smart women (though not necessarily in the highest ranks), and an age in which the majority of purchases are made or influenced by women, the public voices remain men.
So what’s going on? Are we witnessing an outright prejudice on the part of event organizers and award shows? Do we simply perpetuate the problem when men invite men who invite more men? Or is it just the natural outcome of inviting whoever is top of mind when we make lists of leading talent, selecting the people we already know and with whom we’re comfortable? I know I do a little of that myself when planning workshops.
I asked Farrah what she thought and she was kind enough to offer the following, reflecting responses that she’s received from event organizers and jury chair people.
- Conference organizers recruit from their peers, colleagues, and those they admire. If they don’t know or know of women, they don’t invite them.
- If they can fill the panels or juries, then they’re done. They don’t like to un-invite people and it’s hard to add women after the fact.
- Many conferences require some amount of travel; not all conferences reimburse or pay their speakers. This can be a hardship for women who have kids at home, or who are struggling entrepreneurs.
- I keep hearing, “the women we ask want to be paid.” But the women they ask are Danah Boyd, Jane McGonigal, Amber Case, Marissa Mayer. Of course they want to be paid. They make a living writing and speaking or are in high demand.
- Today I heard this feedback – the 4As only want women who are ‘heads’ of departments and running the show.
- There’s an outright assumption that in the areas of technology, game theory, network theory, and analytics there aren’t enough women to choose from.
She also goes on to suggest some solutions.
- Stop depending on the people (department heads) who’ve stopped growing in their careers, are no longer hands-on, and are a step behind the trends and technology defining the industry’s future.
- Start with a determination to make the list (panel, jury, speakers) 50 percent men and 50 percent women. Even if you don’t achieve it you’ll be better for trying.
- Pass the #toomanywhitemen list around to all the event organizers you know. (And use the hashtag on Twitter.)
- Women themselves need to step forward and make themselves available to event organizers, taking some of the responsibility. (Good post here on self-advocating.)
Why do I care? Lots of reasons. I think the future of this industry depends on its diversity. As an event organizer myself I’ve been guilty of a 25 percent ratio. (That was our last BDW workshop ratio, though women did turn us down due to family/kids/travel challenges.) And I have a daughter.
If you have ideas, suggestions, observations, please share. And pass the list around.
TV is social. Ironic given that social media and digital distractions were supposed to kill TV. Instead, as Fast Company tells us, appointment viewing is back. Why? So we can tweet with our friends while we watch.
Advertising is social. On YouTube we seek out stuff to watch, comment on and pass along. On other platforms we gather our own friends for lively discussions on brands we love or those we love to hate.
Retails is social. And not just in the Groupon way. Dressing rooms connect us to our Facebook friends. Innovative marketers crowdsource price reductions. And forward thinking retail employees leverage their own social networks to boost both sales and service.
For marketers, however, social media’s proliferation poses as many challenges as opportunities. In fact, in its 2011 predictions, Forrester suggests that the easy days of Social Media Marketing are over. Once it was enough just to engineer your digital presence, buy a few likes and slip some content into the stream. Now marketers have to contend with saturation, fragmentation, and the big issue of privacy.
Their recommendation, no surprise, is to elevate engagement. Not just the kind that gets a customer to check-in or respond directly to a brand, but engagement that motivates a brand’s friends and followers to make an impression on those with whom they’re connected. Think in terms of the Crowdtap model, which does exactly that.
Forrester also argues that more companies need to turn all employees into marketers. (Good news for start-ups like 1Yell.) At Mullen we’ve developed training manuals and guidelines for select clients on how to do that. But one tip is to make social media participation an actual criterion for hiring. (Recent Gen-Y graduates, if you are at all socially savvy, use that to sell a prospective employer on your future value.)
Finally, Forrester reminds all those marketers who can never see beyond the immediate, short-term ROI that they shouldn’t disregard the significant risk of doing nothing. Given consumers widespread fondness and enthusiasm for all things social brands have no choice but to be there.
Yet when you consider the scenarios mentioned above, consumers don’t participate because they want to connect with a brand or its information. Appointment TV viewing and conversation, group advertising critique, and social dressing rooms all have one thing in common. They attract people by connecting them to each other.
The smartest social media marketers recognize that it’s the gift of community – whether built around conversation, data or utility – that serves them best in the social space. Doling out coupons still works. And disguising a sales pitch as social engagement may be tolerated, but they won’t be enough over the long term.
Two of my favorite social media examples have less to do with platforms that sell likes or gather followers and instead demonstrate the value of connecting people to each other. One is Garmin Connect, a community of runners and cyclists who may have thought they were buying a GPS device to save them from getting lost only to discover that they bought into a community of like-minded athletes who readily share their runs, rides and routes, making content from others as valuable as the personal data captured by the device itself. Oh, by the way, the community also encourages a greater dependency on the brand – increasing the likelihood users will buy the next upgrade, and building a brilliant barrier to exit.
The second is Skype’s In the Classroom, a free community for teachers to connect, find partners, recruit speakers, and share inspiration. When Skype, with its partner Made by Many, discovered that the only thing limiting educators’ use of Skype was finding people to Skype with, they built this two-sided directory as a solution. They didn’t ask teachers to follow them on Twitter, or click on a Like button. They offered the gift of community, connecting people to each other.
Want to be embraced by the consumers whose attention and involvement you covet? Give them something they actually value. Connections to people they want to connect with.
When you’re in the service business, the client and his demands have to take priority. Which means it’s hard as hell to free up resources to invent something for yourself, whether a platform, app, piece of software or the next Groupon. Even if you have an idea, assemble a team, and start to work, you’re still screwed. For the moment a prospective client shows up with an RFP or an existing client issues a new assignment everyone abandons the internal project and focuses on the real job.
The new on-demand consumer participation platform rewards consumers for collaborating with brands, entertainment properties and startups, while giving marketers a chance to involve customers in everything from testing products to promoting them. Unlike closed communities that are dedicated to a single brand, Crowdtap can leverage the network effect. The more brands that employ the service, the more consumers are attracted; the more consumers who join, the greater the value for brands.
It’s exactly the kind of platform you would expect an ad agency, especially one that specializes in word-of-mouth, to invent. Then again you’d have thought an agency would have conceived Groupon or SCVNGR.
But it turns out that thinking like a service company and thinking like a software company couldn’t be more different. The former is client focused, the latter has to be product focused. According to Matt if you want to actually develop a product you have to take it out of the agency environment and create a product environment. Though it certainly doesn’t hurt to know something about advertising and marketing after you’ve created your product.
I caught up with the dynamic Matt Britton in Boulder a couple of weeks ago and we had this conversation about advertising, IP, specialization and the creation of Crowdtap. Hope you enjoy.
Some would say it’s the creative director. Others might argue the mantle belongs to the lead strategist. A few might even proffer we should give the label to the head of business development. No doubt those are all incredibly valuable roles, making the work, shaping the idea, attracting new clients.
I’m going out on a limb and suggesting we consider anointing a different role as the most important job in advertising. My nominee? The creative technologist.
A creative technologist can teach people about digital tools and platforms and how to create with them. Good ones can inspire writers, designers and even creative directors with possibilities they may never have imagined. A few of the best might even be able to transform a company, affecting the work, the teams, and the processes necessary to keep up with all the change and the opportunities that technology constantly presents.
According to Scott Prindle of CP&B, considered among the best, here are the eight key contributions a creative technologist makes.
- write code and make functional software
- lead strategic thinking for utilities and platforms
- bring new technology into the creative process
- manage complexity and change
- build prototypes
- enable an agile workflow
- manage relationships with client IT
- spark experimentation
Go back a few years and few, if any, traditional advertising agencies would have this role front and center. But with the continued convergence of story telling, technology, APIs and new mobile platforms it’s now essential. In fact this month the 4A’s conducts a full day conference on the role and how to incorporate it. Some of the top creative technologists will be there, including Scott Prindle and Andy Hood. If you can’t make it, here’s a cheaper, less time consuming introduction to the role.
We generate ideas and campaigns by crowdsourcing via the web. We discover, “borrow” and mash-up content and perspectives from places like SlideShare. We build communities of collaborators, or at least sources of content, via Twitter and Skype.
But if you project the findings from a recent proximity study conducted by Harvard and the Boston medical community, none of the technologies that make it effortless and inexpensive to collaborate with people around the world matter as much as location when it comes to creativity and innovation.
The Boston study, a 10-year analysis of the Harvard biomedical research collaborations (published in PLoS ONE), argues that physical proximity is the most important predictor of the impact of collaboration.
The study found that the closer the offices of key research partners, the more influential their joint papers were likely to be. As the Boston Globe reported, “It mattered whether collaborators were riding the same elevators in a building in Longwood, or working in labs on opposite banks of the Charles.”
You can find evidence of this hypothesis in plenty of places other than medical research. In Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson concludes that innovation needs eco-systems that foster contact and collisions, citing numerous examples, from the coffee houses of 18th and 19th century England to the density that defines most modern cities.
Edward Glaeser, in a recent Atlantic article, also attributes creativity and innovation to proximity and location. Writing about the advantages of skyscrapers he notes the early impact of Elisha Otis’s elevator – the vertical conveyor enabled more people to work in urban centers and more importantly invited greater economic diversity by lowering the cost of real estate – and concludes that globalization and new technologies “only make urban proximity more valuable—young workers gain many of the skills they need in a competitive global marketplace by watching the people around them. Those tall buildings enable the human interactions that are at the heart of economic innovation, and of progress itself.”
It’s become awfully easy to do all of our communication and interaction via email, social networks, and video conferencing. Wi Fi and the web let us telecommute and stay connected from anywhere. But if there’s any truth in the findings of the proximity study we may all want to get out of our offices and cubicles and even our buildings and enjoy more face time, eye contact and human interaction with the people who can make our ideas better.
If you’re interested in this kind of stuff, definitely read the Atlantic article and the Boston Globe piece. And if you have any other examples of how face-to-face collaboration drives innovation, please share them.
Image from: PLoS ONE