The Archive April 12, 2014

The Power of the Female Creative Director, Redux

Marketing Agencies Slowly Evolve Toward Equality

At Britton Marketing & Design Group, we don’t have female creative directors. Well, let me explain. We have creative directors who are female. We do something crazy and refer to our creative directors as “creative directors.” The fact that they are female is significant only because we are a female-centric organization. We proudly tout that we understand women. 

Sadly, marketing agencies as a whole don’t share our vision in regard to creative directors who are female. The results of the 2013 Communication Arts Advertising Annual are a good example. On, Noreen O’Leary pointed out that “female creative directors accounted for more than 11 percent of all award winners compared to less than 4 percent in 2004.”

That’s good news, yes? Well, yeeeeeeees, but there is another side to the story. O’Leary wrote, “Three women served as judges for CA’s latest Advertising Annual, out of a total of nine — the same proportion as in 2004.” So it’s sort of a good-news-not-so-good-news story.

But one thing to keep in mind is that awards are not the definitive gauges for indicating equality in the world of creative directors. O’Leary explained, “While the CA winners are an industry indicator, the 3% Conference said that the ad business needs a better benchmark because the annual awards issue may not include the contributions of freelance female creative directors, in-house CDs, digital CDs, design directors, experience design directors, creative technologists, PR CDs and motion graphics CDs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not measure ‘creative director’ as a job title, so there’s no official yardstick to measure gender breakout.”

We do something crazy and refer to our creative directors as “creative directors.”

The 3% Conference is, according to its mission, supporting “female creative leadership in advertising agencies.”

Kathy Delaney is the chief creative officer at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness, and she understands the importance of female creative vision and its effect on business. “When clients think about hiring an agency they need to be asking who is going to work on my business, who is the person to be the voice for my brand targeting women,” she stated in Lydia Dishman’s Fast Company article “Where Are All the Women Creative Directors?

Delaney hits on an important point: the business aspect of giving female professionals their due in the marketing industry. There is perhaps no one better suited to address this topic than Shelly Lazarus.

Lazarus began at Ogilvy & Mather, one of the most famous ad agencies in the world, in 1971 and stepped down from her CEO position in 2013, becoming chairman emeritus. Her story is a fascinating one, a guide for anyone (not just women) seeking success, period, let alone in advertising and marketing.

After graduating from Smith College in 1968, Lazarus earned her MBA from Columbia University. While this may seem like pretty much boilerplate stuff, you have to remember that this was 1970. She was one of a grand total of four women in her graduating class … of 300. First hurdle cleared.

Upon joining Ogilvy & Mather in 1971, she was one of the few women in the advertising field. And while that seems like a negative, Lazarus used it to her advantage., in a feature about Lazarus, noted that many times she was “in a room full of suits as the only female creative director in the room.”

“I had this enormous power because there would inevitably come this moment in a meeting. It would be me and 14 men, and we would be talking about something — like tampons, which was the case once — and they would all turn to me and go, ‘Well, Shelly, what do women think?’ And I would be talking on behalf of all women everywhere in the world,” Lazarus explained.

She climbed the ladder quickly, rising from account executive in 1971 to chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide in 1997. Along the way, she helped the agency garner the business of American Express, Coca-Cola, IBM and Motorola.

When clients think about hiring an agency they need to be asking who is going to work on my business.

Kathy Delaney

The most significant of those positions, and not just because it was the top of the ladder, was CEO. That’s because Lazarus replaced Charlotte Beers, Ogilvy’s first female CEO. This made “Ogilvy & Mather the first firm in the industry to have one female CEO succeed another.” Obviously, this “was an important signal to the corporate world that women were equally competent in top agency positions.”

And for those professional women who are looking for their own success, Lazarus has some sage advice. On, she stated, “Find something you love to do professionally. You have to love what you’re doing. If you ever want to find balance, you have to love your work, because you’re going to love your children, that’s almost a given. When things get out of balance, and where women become miserable, is when they actually don’t like what they’re doing professionally. They then resent every minute that they’re away from the things they love, and, therefore, the job gets worse and worse, because more resentment fills their lives. Just keep at it until you find it.”

That’s great advice for anyone, not just women. We (all of us) could do a lot worse than to heed these words from Shelly Lazarus or, for that matter, Go Go. Now everyone get out there and “Woman up!”

Photos: BMDG Instagram

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