UPDATE: About an hour after this post, and over 600 shares later, I received a request to chat from the Council of PR Firms. They were apologetic, engaging and open-minded. In fact, we are in agreement on a number of points mentioned below. And while it was not my objective to get re-invited, it became apparent that we both agreed this was too good a mini, real time case — proving the need for courage, creativity and collaboration — to not get presented at their September event. It demonstrates the ability of an individual to create, the courage of the Council to acknowledge and engage. And the ultimate benefit of collisions and collaboration. And so, I have been re-invited. The power of social media, even in the hands of an “ad guy,” never fails to astound.
A couple of weeks ago, a colleague of mine asked, on behalf of The Council of PR Firms, if I would speak at a big event they were planning in Boston. The theme was to be change, acknowledging that the industry needs more diverse talent.
Perfect, I thought and immediately agreed. Given that I’d just spent the last few years advocating and initiating change inside a full service agency – hiring new kinds of talent, changing work that got made, embedding more of a social media mindset and inspiring collisions, I figured this was right up my alley.
But yesterday the Council of PR Firms uninvited me. Apparently they found out that I was an “ad guy.” And damn if a PR organization would have an “ad guy” talk to PR students and young professionals about change and diversity.
Only three percent of advertising creative directors are women.
Who’ll solve this problem? Women? Men? Agency management?
I think we need the clients.
I was thrilled to see a huge a turnout last night — albeit mostly women — for the Boston version of Kat Gordon’s 3% Conference. It goes without saying that if only three percent of advertising’s creative directors are women, we have a problem. And it’s a pretty big one. It results in work that is often one-sided — dominated by guy-humor, lacking the right nuance, and missing opportunities to connect more deeply with the more dominant sex, at least when it comes to influencing purchase decisions, adopting technology, using social media and gaming.
Women account for, or influence, 85 percent of all purchases in this country. They embrace new gadgets and devices more quickly. They exceed men’s use of social media on every platform except LinkedIn. And they comprise at least half of all video gamers; 3% Percent Conference facts actually show that they spend more time than man playing.
Yet with the exception of a few organizations — Mullen’s own Frank About Women among them — the advertising industry chooses to have mostly men create, evaluate and bless the work that is supposed to market to women.
Of course, this is neither a new nor a surprise. The annual cover of Creativity showing All Star creatives has told us that for years. Juries at the award shows reminds us how male-dominated the creative side of the industry remains. And a look across the top ranks of most agency creative departments confirms it.
The problem is as easy to identify. This is a brutal business. Long hours, lots of weekends, the demands of new business pitches, extended time on the road far from home to produce TV commercials. None of which is very compatible with women who want kids and families, which, by the way usually happens right when they’re at the point in their career where they’re most qualified to become creative directors.
The 3% Conference last night did not pretend to offer the complete formula for effecting change, saving that for a more thorough two-day conference in San Francisco. But Kat Gordon and our panel did put forth a few strong suggestions — all of which were discussed and debated vigorously by an engaged and opinionated audience.
There are two sides to the issue. The role that women can play in their own career growth and success. And the responsibility of agencies themselves to change, not out of altruism but because it’s good for business.
The consensus came down to this.
Women need to take more credit for their accomplishments.
I love assertive, opinionated women. Apparently not all guys do. So you can heed the advice of Cindy Gallop and be a bitch. She makes a damn good point.
Right now our industry needs more bitches because bitches need to start bitching, by which I mean, speaking up.
We live in a world where the default setting is always male. Most innate bias and sexism is unconscious. We change that by speaking up. Have a different point of view from the men? Say so. Want that promotion? Ask for it. Facing an all-male leadership team, board, creative department or conference speaker lineup? Challenge it and propose a better balance. Yes, you’ll be called a bitch but not by people who know the best new future for our industry is one shaped equally by men and women.
But even if you don’t want to get overly assertive, women do have to ask for more promotions, fight for more opportunities and most importantly take credit for their accomplishments, something they fail to do. Especially when they work with men.
All of this presumes, of course, that they’re doing great work and know how to present it convincingly.
Finally if both of those approaches fail, you’re working in the wrong agency according to panelists Alyssa Toro and Sue DeSilva. In that case, get the hell out, let it be the agency’s loss, and find a more enlightened place to work.
Guys have to play a role
While they probably won’t admit it, guys are more comfortable hanging out with guys. As creative directors, they’re more comfortable giving feedback to guy teams. And when they do review work from women, they often apply narrow evaluation criteria.
The women in the audience last night appeared unanimous in suggesting that men CD’s filter work through a man lens. If it doesn’t satisfy their creative sensibilities it isn’t creative. So perhaps it’s time to listen to the smart, creative women that work for us. Recognize that they understand themselves better than we do and so their opinion should matter at least as much.
Kat shared one interesting example that proves this. If you were going to buy your wife or girlfriend a birthday gift, who would you ask? Certainly not another man. Perhaps one of her friends or another woman who shares her taste. Why not trust the same opinion when marketing to women?
Lastly on this topic, senior men need to be mentors to women. Don’t be afraid to take young women to lunch. Counsel them on how to sell their work, navigate the organization and develop influence. You won’t be seen as a lech. You’ll be seen as a guy who gets it.
Management needs to model behavior
We may have to put in crazy hours to meet client deadlines and get to work that’s great. But is that the only way? Is it good to be in the office at 10:00 pm every night, to forego vacations, to neglect our families?
You could make an argument that everyone is more creative if their life is balanced. But even if you don’t buy into that, it’s more than evident that women who are Moms work harder, smarter and more efficiently. They have no choice. So what if someone goes home to get the kids or watch a soccer game? All that we should care about is the quality of the work.
If agencies buy into the fact that a woman’s perspective is better for business and yields more effective work — arguable I know — then as the 3 Percent Conference suggests, they have to set an example from the top and practice the kind of behavior and policy that can make the business for accomodating to women. If not, we all know what happens. When it’s time to have a family, the women leave. We all know amazingly, talented, senior creatives who eschewed becoming CDs to go freelance instead.
Example: Feel compelled to write 10 emails to your staff at 11:00 pm? Do so. But don’t hit send until the morning. After all if you send them at 11:15 at night you’re declaring that you expect them to be reading them and responding at the same time.
But there’s really only one solution: clients have to demand more women on their accounts
I’m skeptical, however. Change is hard. And the industry is what it is on many fronts. Granted there are some companies where everyone goes home at 5:30. (They’re probably not on the Ad Age A-List or winning lions at Cannes.) And there are others that go out of their way to make flex time work, to fly creative teams home from shoots on weekends, etc. They get it. But when push comes to shove, deadlines and the work take priority, at least as far as most agency management is concerned.
If we really want more women CDs working in the industry, the only real solution is for clients to demand more women on their accounts, from the teams that do the work to the CDs that inspire and approve it. They already know it’s good for business, after all their consumers and users are women.
(That’s not to say that men can’t deliver the goods see Dove Sketches, done by a male team; but let’s face it, typically women get women better than men do. And that perspective is needed for all products and categories, not just so called female brands.)
It’s clients who have the greatest clout and the most to gain. And wouldn’t it be so great to replace Don Draper’s best line of this season…
“Every time this agency wins a car account it turns into a whore house.”
“Every time this agency wins a _______ account it gets more collaborative (or more relevant, or more balanced, or more diverse, or more balanced.)
After all, those would be just a few of the benefits of having more women CDs in advertising.
There will be no shortage of great ideas vying for attention at this month’s Cannes Creativity Festival. But I’l be rooting for one in particular. Forsman & Bodenfors’ energy saving experiment for E.ON.
The campaign has made more than one list of Cannes favorites and has already picked up a gold pencil at One Show. So it will probably make some noise in France and take home a gold or silver lion for sure, and possibly even a bigger prize.
I hope it does. For the simple reason that it might inspire the kind of work we need more of from advertising agencies, be they rooted in digital, traditional or a combination of the two.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, it’s pretty simple. It’s a campaign for E.ON’s Swedish subsidiary that encourages people to reduce energy consumption not with a vapid advertising campaign but rather with utility that combines user participation, personal data, mobile, gaming, and the Internet of Things. It shows customers their energy use in real time, their savings when they take specific action, and their standing visa vis their neighbors.
If that’s not enough contemporary marketing buzzwords checked off by this one application, there’s also evidence of iterative testing and crowd sourcing, all in the name of conscious capitalism. Whether or not E.ON is as worthy a company as this campaign suggests is another story, but for these purposes let’s stay focused on the creative.
Partnering with Maingate, a Swedish company that tailors technologies for smart homes, Forsman and Bodenfors worked with E.ON to recruit 10,000 homes to use an app that monitored energy consumption for an entire year. The app visualized usage in multiple ways — money being spent, battles among participants, an aggressive coach who implored you to perform better, and a tomagotchi whose life depended on your willingness to reduce your footprint — so that users could find the one most motivating to them.
A companion site let users track their progress, compare themselves to others with similar sized homes, and monitor the collective gains of an entire country. Users could share what worked for them, garner insights from each other, and create a story worthy of attention from the press, bloggers and social media communities.
In the end, the 10,000 users reduced their energy use by 12 percent.
We all know that the future of advertising and marketing is less about messages and pleas and more about inspiration. Yet inducing change, as we’ve learned from failed attempts to stop drunk driving, smoking, obesity, drug consumption, texting while driving is incredibly hard. It takes design thinking like this. And a belief in ideas that do, that involve, and that invite participation in order to achieve something worthwhile.
Sadly, most agencies won’t think this way until someone else wins a big award first. Then the race will be on. That’s why I’m hoping E.ON’s energy saving experiment wins big.
Above a TV spot that was part of the campaign.
Thought I would share it here, too.
Was written as an introduction to a book that I’ve been to lazy to make much progress on. But if the sun doesn’t come out for a month or so, perhaps I’ll keep going.
If you don’t use Medium, you should check it out, both as a reader and a content creator. It’s an elegant platform and the right content can scale quickly.
“Edward, there’s a Don Draper here to see you.”
“OK, I’ll be right out.”
Don stood in the lobby, a black portfolio case in his right hand. He stared out the window at a Heineken sign painted on the side of an exposed brick building across the lot.
“Now that’s a poster,” he said turning to face me. “Don Draper.”
It certainly was a poster. As boring and traditional as a poster could be. Green background. Big picture of the bottle. A logo.
“Sure is,” I nodded.
We walked past the receptionist, down an extra wide flight of stairs to the creative department below. I wasn’t really looking forward to this conversation.
“Are we meeting in your office?” asked the legendary CD.
“Actually I don’t have an office. None of us have offices anymore, Don. As you can see, we just have open space. Long tables. Laptops we can carry with us up to the cafe if we want a change of pace. Even the conference rooms have glass doors so everyone feels more connected.”
He seemed confused.
“I mean where would you, what happens when….”
There was a pause.
“When you want to bang your secretary?” I finished the sentence for him. “ Not a problem, Don. We don’t have secretaries anymore either. We do our own typing, correspondence, appointments.”
We passed some large walls with work in progress pinned to them. Video games, apps, charts that showed user experience journeys and a few key frames for a new mobile experience.
“We can just sit here. Have a seat.” I gestured to a couple of stools at an elevated bench in the middle of the creative department. I figured Don might feel more comfortable sitting at a bar height table.”
“At least you have a bar. That’s great.”
“Actually it’s not a bar. Just a place to stand and work. People like to work standing up these days. Better for you.”
Don looked at me with some skepticism.
Clearly the concept of doing anything in an ad agency from a vertical position was a foreign concept to my guest.
“So you want to see my book, or should we just talk about the job?”
“Let’s look at the book.”
He unzipped a Utrecht black leather portfolio case to reveal a dozen or more pristine plastic leaves, each displaying a tear sheet. All the campaigns that made Don famous were there. Kodak, Playtex, Lucky Strike. He pushed the open case toward me and I feigned interest as I flipped through the pages.
“Some memorable work, for sure.”
“So what do you think?” Don pulled out a pack of Lucky’s and pressed his pant pockets in search of either matches or a lighter.
“You can’t smoke here, Don. Sorry.”
“I thought you said this was an advertising agency?”
“We still call it that, yes. But a lot has changed. In fact we don’t really make many ads. At least not the kind you’re used to making.”
“Well what do you make?”
“I guess we make a newer form of advertising. Digital experiences, social media applications, engagement platforms, shareable content, mobile utility. A lot of technology.”
“I see. Well, technology is a glittering lure, but there’s the rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash, when they have a sentimental bond with the product….”
Don launched into his well rehearsed Carousel speech.
“I love that monolog,” I interrupted. “ It’s brilliant. It’s probably got a million views on YouTube. But I only have a few more minutes.”
I flipped through the rest of Don’s portfolio then lied to Don (some things about advertising don’t change) and said I had a meeting with a client and walked him back to the lobby.
“We’ll pass your book around and I’ll get back to you.”
I wasn’t sure he believed me. But he said thank you, shook my hand and offered a good-bye. I waited with him for the elevator. He entered and pressed the lobby button.
As the doors slid closed, he stared straight at me and with a half smile added, “Good luck with your next meeting.”
Wait a minute, I thought. Wasn’t that Roger’s line?
A week ago the pundits were quick to suggest that Yahoo’s purchase of Tumblr was little more than a Hail Mary. How can a company dependent on a dying model (display advertising) and an aging user base stay relevant in the age of social media?
Put that way it sounds like a sure recipe for an obituary of some kind a year or two out. So was this a mistake? Or does Yahoo know something we don’t know yet?
What Yahoo did acquire was a younger, hipper audience. Tumblr indexes at 237 for 18—24 year olds and only a notch below that for users up to 34. But despite the appeal of that demographic, Tumblr has failed to sell or deliver effective native advertising. And the other option, blasting users with uninvited display ads has to be ruled out, as it will likely make the site too uncool to hold onto the users Yahoo covets in the first place.
On this week’s The Beancast, host Bob Knorpp, Mitch Joel, Brian Morrissey, Steve Wax, and I discussed a number of topics including the recent Yahoo Tumblr acquisition. We wondered if the real strategy was to leverage Tumblr’s voluminous porn. We hypothesized that Tumblr could become a YouTube of printed and visual content. We hoped that eventually the creative community would figure out how to make native advertising that’s either useful or entertaining. Just in time to save Yahoo’s investment.
(None of us really knew what we’re talking about or we’d be running Yahoo or creating Tumblrs, but this is social media so we’re all allowed to pontificate. Mitch Joel may have been the closest to right when he reminded everyone that $1.2 billion is cheap if it simply buys Yahoo some relevance with a younger market.)
But here’s how Tumblr and Yahoo will make money. They won’t be saved by ad agencies, or creatives or some form of native advertising. It will be with algorithms and data and search software. Possibly from a company called Swoop.
In a total coincidence, the night after Mr. Knorpp asked me how Yahoo would make money with it’s newest toy, I found myself on a 50-mile road ride with the CEO of Swoop, serial entrepreneur Ron Elwell.
His new startup extends advertisers’ search campaigns by leveraging the content that a search ultimately leads a consumer to. So if you were looking for cake recipes, found a page that offered one, and were skimming through the recipe, Swoop knows that a.) you were searching for that recipe and b. how to match advertising with the content on that page in a very user-friendly and unobtrusive way.
Swoop relies on what it calls “hints,” essentially asking you if, at that moment, you are interested in an ad or offer about, say, cake mix, or sugar or milk. Only if you say “yes,” do you see an ad. Better yet, that ad gets customized based on what your search terms have been, so its relevance is increased.
Yes this is one of many new programs and platforms attempting to make advertising more timely and contextual. But what makes it interesting and suggests real potential is that it actually respects the user and offers him or her a choice.
What does something like this mean for Yahoo and Tumblr? First and foremost, suddenly all content becomes more valuable. If you, as an advertiser, know that an interest in certain terms, whether searched or discovered in content that readers care about, leads to traffic and sales, you have more relevant places to offer your “hints.” And, of course, given that Yahoo is now sitting on a ton of new, fresh daily content that it already knows people seek out, it has something useful to offer advertisers.
This won’t happen overnight. Right now Swoop is still in the process of evaluating the content against which its technology works best. And much of the content on Tumblr is, of course, visual. But it is likely that the solution, or part of it, will come from new ways to create contextual advertising that accurately knows what a user or reader wants, not simply assuming that a like or a follow means she wants to be pummeled with so-called native ads in her stream.
Of course, platforms like this, assuming they are successful, will benefit any content creator or popular destination. But at least it gives Yahoo a fighting chance and a way to leverage traffic, popularity, and its young readers without fucking up what does seem to work for Tumblr users.
In fact, Yahoo might even be able to make more money off of its porn.