FRENCH KISS OF DEATH
CB asked Jeneal Rohrback, creative director of Young & Rubicam, Auckland, to respond to the outrageous comments made by WPP worldwide CD Neil French in Canada last month.....
It made my blood boil after reading the AdAge article where Neil French says,” Women don’t make it to the top because they don’t deserve to”, “They’re crap” and “They wimp out and suckle something”.
I then slept on it (badly) and woke up with a slightly milder thought in my head – How could such a brilliant man be so stupid?
Why would he say what he said?
Things rolled around in my head for a couple more days, as I got more and more confused (and pissed off) about what I should do about it. I told Michael Lynch over the phone, “I’m tired of talking about the same old advertising sexism issues to no avail, and if I was going to talk about it again I needed a new spin on it. Nobody will listen unless I come at it from another angle – especially the guys”.
Then I thought BULLSHIT! What Neil French thinks is embarrassingly wrong and I’m not going to pussy foot round. I want to tell him exactly how I feel.
There are some fabulously talented female creative directors out there like Rosie Arnold and Kate Stanners in the UK, Emma Hill in Australia, and Lara Palmer in Canada, just to name a few. And guess what? Rosie and Kate have had babies and being mothers didn’t ruin their careers. In fact it probably made them better. It certainly did for me.
My point being that they’ve managed to build their advertising acumen and reputations, AND have a balanced life too. They can juggle the kids, washing up, grocery shopping and their careers and are still very much intact. These everyday things are what makes an ad person stay in touch with real life. These are the things we need to understand so we can understand people (our audience) out there. It’s the only way we can do our job properly. Other interesting prongs to this argument are that women make most of the purchasing decisions in this country and earn 82% of men’s earnings, but I’ll save that for another article. So, not only does having a more balanced life help our job, it helps our families and us.
Because the flip side of having this balance can be a life full of constant rows over working late, lies, divorce, philandering, alcohol & drug abuse, unhealthy egos & competitiveness, neglected partners & children, and the list goes on and on.
This might sound like I’m exaggerating, but I know you all know what I’m talking about. We’ve all had our fair share of the list above. But things are changing, albeit slowly. Women (and some men) don’t want this fucked- up life. In fact, that’s probably the answer to why a lot of women leave advertising in the end.
Neil also says that if you can’t commit 100% to your job don’t pretend you can. Nobody deserves a job unless they can commit.
Well that depends on your definition of 100% commitment. Mine is that you are doing your job 100% if you’re leading a balanced life whilst you’re doing the hard yards at work. I suspect that Mr French’s is very different to mine, and is probably about being obsessively focused on nothing but the ad business. In my mind this is a loss of focus. It’s what will distance you from people in the end. You have no real sense of what makes people tick. What they feel, want and needs . And Neil demonstrated this loss of connection when he blurted out his self-centred views on ad women the other day.
Life has moved on to a better place Mr French - a place where we can still be brilliant at our jobs and take our kids to the cinema once in a while. And if anyone is crap it’s you, for exacerbating this attitude instead of trying to change it.
NB: I’m writing this on a Sunday and I’m going to stop now so I can go to the shops and spend some time with my family and friends. How crap is that?