Gender always causes a stir, no less so in adland
A view from Claire Beale

Gender always causes a stir, no less so in adland

There's been an awful lot of heat generated over the past week about a piece written in Adweek, by Grey's newly promoted chairman Nils Leonard, on the subject of the creative of the future.

It’s got a lot of people very annoyed, and a lot of people are annoyed at the fact that people have got annoyed. The effect of this has been to get people talking about women in creative departments; this is a good and important thing to be talking about.

The first line of the article doesn’t help, though: "The perfect modern creative is a woman." Quite a few people have objected to that, plenty of them women. Any blueprint for the creative of the future should take gender out of the equation, because being male or female is irrelevant to how good you are. It’s just that it might not be irrelevant to how good you are allowed to be.

It has got people talking about women in creative departments - a good and important thing to be talking about

Anyway, there’s not much wrong with the ensuing picture painted of a collaborative, inspiring and inspired creative, though I reckon brilliant creatives should reserve the right to fight doggedly for ideas they really believe in and sod collaboration sometimes. And if the pronoun attached to this fantasy creature is "she" rather than the default "he", should that be a problem?

I do know that the brilliant Cindy Gallop thinks it’s spot on and read the article out to an audience at Advertising Week in New York, where it received deafening applause. And I know that some women find it benevolently sexist and utterly patronising.

Whatever your view of the issue, it’s worth noting that the number of female creative directors in the US is now up to 11.5 per cent – from the original 3 per cent stat nine years ago. That’s an increase of more than 300 per cent. But it’s still awful and progress is actually painfully slow.

The other thing to note is that Grey London is producing far better creative work now than it was under the old regime. There are lots of reasons for that, but there’s no doubt that better creative talent – plenty of whom happen to be female, including Vicky Maguire and Hollie Newton – has made a big difference. The formula is working.

A D&AD Pencil is a rare thing, a marker of excellence in the craft of creativity like no other. It’s quite hard not to win a Lion if you’re any good. It’s very hard to win a Pencil, even if you’re great. Except now it’s less hard, because you can win a wood or graphite one. This sounds like a bad thing, but I don’t think so. D&AD seems shy to say it, but the new Pencils will (hopefully) help the organisation make more money from selling tables at its awards, which it will plough back into nurturing creative talent. That’s important, and yellow and black still rule.

claire.beale@haymarket.com    @clairebeale

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