In their session Wednesday, Valerie Cheng and Polly Chu, ECDs of JWT Shanghai and Beijing, respectively, outlined why advertising needs more female creatives.
Chu cited research that showed women account for just 3 per cent of agency creative directors in the US. Globally, around 85 per cent of creative directors are male. The statistic looks particularly bad in light of a separate study by JWT that indicates women make the majority of purchase or investment decisions, from new phones to bank accounts to life insurance. “But who is producing the ads?” she asked. “Men.”
For lack of actual women, Chu’s team of male creatives in Beijing are lumbered with the unenviable and decidedly unscientific task of testing out women’s beauty products in an effort to experience what it’s like to be a female consumer. She and Cheng presented a piece of content from Buzzfeed featuring men trying on women’s underwear to illustrate their point. Cheng announced that JWT had launched a scholarship programme for “budding young women interested in advertising” inspired by Helen Lansdowne Resor, one of the first female copywriters.
Other key points of the talk included:
- The lack of female creatives is a business issue rather than a creative one. Clients themselves regularly ask for agencies to have more women on board, Chu said.
- Men can still create advertising for women and vice versa, but more input from a member of the target audience is ultimately likely to lead to better work
- Balancing work and family is still a significant challenge for women wanting to work in advertising
- Agencies need to consider what they can do to accommodate a greater work-life balance—and not only for women
- Female creatives need to be challenged to persevere. “I urge you to motivate a female friend and colleague and push her beyond her comfort zone,” Cheng said.
Campaign’s observation: The issue is as old as advertising itself and it’s disappointing that little has changed. The presentation did not tell us anything vastly new, but it’s good to see successful creatives like Cheng and Chu standing up and challenging the status quo. We hope the industry supports them and finds a way to make itself a more viable career option for talented women.