I Am The 3%

I remember when I first walked into the Western States Advertising Agencies Association and saw a sea of suits. Black suits, navy suits, ill-fitting suits – but they all had one thing in common: they clothed a man. I only saw one other woman in the room.

I am the 3%. For the last 50 years, women have been fighting for positions in creative, and especially as directors, yet only 3% of these directors’ chairs seat women. Everywhere I look, I see so many intelligent, feminine minds flourishing in their fields and creating incredible work. So where is the hitch that keeps more women from becoming Creative Directors (CDs)?

As the industry stands, with women influencing 80% of consumer spending, one would think that they’d have more of a voice in marketing decisions.

I believe it starts with history and comfort. We’ve become used to the male creative director, the Don Drapers of yesteryear, and we can’t shake that stereotype. As Shanteka Sigers of Sanders\Wingo said, “There’s no conspiracy…it’s just a bunch of dudes being comfortable with the familiar.” They’re used to their style, humor and way of marketing towards women – it’s a boys’ club.

I remember as a young creative director once again surrounded by a sea of suits being asked, “You’re the only girl here, what do you think?” Well I think that the advertising world could benefit from more estrogen driven, emotionally connective thinking and not having only one girl in the room. It’s not about equality or feminism; it’s about better, more effective business.

According to a study by Arnold’s Women’s Insight Team, 91% of women think that advertisers don’t understand them, and 58% are annoyed by how advertisers portray their gender.

Numbers don’t lie — 97% of male creative directors could clearly use a little help from the girls. The lack of women in CD positions and corresponding lower salaries also reflects the lingering sexism remaining in the workforce.

To be frank, men and women alike often think that women can’t be funny or that they are not strong enough to handle such a stressful and powerful role; I beg to differ. Currently a woman runs the Secret Service, serves as the Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, Secretary of State, and as for humor, shows like Bridesmaids and Girls have taken the public by storm.

At Sagon-Phior, we have seen first hand how a womanly perspective works. A female CD understands feminine humor and the nuances of the female psyche. This perspective has benefited us greatly with many of our clients marketing to women such as WE TV, Weightwatchers, Sony Style, Fred Hayman of Beverly Hills, Splenda and BRAVO Networks. They’ve enjoyed immensely successful campaigns simply because we engaged the 3%.

As an example, three well-respected agencies had developed campaigns to build foot traffic into Sony Plaza in New York City. All were award-winning campaigns for the agencies, but they did little good for the client’s bottom line. Once we were engaged to help, our research showed women and not men purchased 53% of home electronics. The former agencies had marketed directly to men, assuming a male target market. Our campaign, “Grown-up Toys for Girls and Boys,” increased foot traffic by 2000% in less than 3 weeks – a resounding success for Sony.

An agency that is pro-women and that hires them as CDs isn’t the same as one that only attempts to market to them. We need to put our stereotypes aside and inspire more women to join the creative fold and also encourage others to give them a chance. There also will always be some who have what it takes to be a director and some who do not. It’s ultimately the quality of the work that determines a final decision. So, even as woman, your work has got to be impressive, and in most cases, more so.
Sources: http://www.theawsc.com/2013/08/28/level-the-playing-field/#comment-35461;  http://3percentconf.com/ ; http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising/what-women-think-56700

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