The work and ideas are first and foremost when entering the advertising industry. So you would think this meant that there would be more of a balanced female to male ratio in the industry. However a culture has developed overtime making advertising more appealing and more readily available to a certain demographic (white men).
More men enter the Creative side of advertising and many enjoy keeping a department of work buddies who resemble themselves.
Is this a crime? No. Maybe. Though it is a reality in many places.
The issue of women and minority groups becomes an active one, therefore it becomes ‘ah what a shame’ or ‘we need to actively seek women’, it may even fall into the gimmick in the industry.
The gimmick being that in advertising there is this love for finding that unexpected person who will bring to light that unexpected work because of their personal dissimilarities to others. That cleaner who surprisingly has great ideas, that Somalian girl with a funny haircut who paints dark satirical masterpieces and brings something fresh to the table.
I met an illustrator who would mock industry folk in his drawings and the creatives of a very large mainstream agency loved him for that reason, it was as though their enthusiasm towards him only highlighted the things he was mocking.
I remember someone leaning over to me once saying ‘you are Iranian, a female, who studied poetry and politics at the School or Oriental and African studies, but work as a Creative how weird and wonderful’, it almost made me realise that I had to play up on this fact, that the work doesn’t always speak for itself.
But do I want to be a gimmick? Do women want to be a gimmick?
So it seems that being in the minority is not always a bad thing, it gives a slight easily attainable USP. I hear from allot of talented female creatives that the reality ends up being that they get shoved onto the Pantene Account: 'you understand women.. so work on a hair product'.
When female consumers make 75% of ALL buying decisions – why on earth would you shove female creatives onto working on just hair products?
So how has this culture of white, male dominated advertising prevailed in the UK?
One main issue that jumps to mind is sustainability, how feasible is it for a young Asian girl to tell her parents: "I am entering a Creative industry where I'll get paid close to nothing at the start and will most likely not be able to contribute to my own livelihood or to my family's for quite some time. Mum and Dad this will be an expensive exploit on your part to support me towards a career you will likely never understand or respect."
So who is likely to succeed? Those who: 1.) Can afford to go to university 2.) Will have atleast minimal support from their parents after university 3.) Those who are physically able to rough it, by that I mean sleep on their buddy's sofa in London, work weekends in a pub, go without sleep due to bashing out a new portfolio every week and living off baked beans until a Creative Director gives them a second shot.
There are numerous other insights into the funny old A(d)hole that exists and how some of the fillers (women etc.) are treated.
Since we have come across this A(d) hole my partner and I (Junior Creatives) we proposed a project and got funding from Greenwich Council. We named it The Electric Circuit, it’s an experiment working with kids in minority communities to stop sausage factory universities supplying all the Advertising talent. The youngsters in these communities have been made to feel empowered through teaching fearlessness with weekly life challenges and working on live briefs for businesses and agencies.
Overall I think the key is teaching young ladies through media depictions and the education system that advertising is a valid option for them, that there are successful female Creatives out there and that it’s not just a boys’ club. This will lead to a natural cultural shift, a shift which has already been occurring over the last few decades.
Over the last few months of The Electric Circuit; a minority community who otherwise had no idea that these sort of jobs even existed have been introduced to what a ‘Creative’ in advertising is and most of these young people thought that rich men in suits made creative decisions.
I propose to everyone in the industry reading this to partake in a monthly event by the name of A-hole, it doesn’t exist yet, and maybe it plays to the whole gimmick I mentioned earlier. It will be an event which brings to light raw talents from the unsung social groups.
So how do we deal with this A-hole you ask? I guess it is up to each power player, CDs, ECDs, Partner etc. to decide if they care or not. Maybe they don’t, and actually I think it is each person’s prerogative, and to be honest, despite what I’ve written, I think there are more pressing issues out there in the larger scheme of things, though I would be interested in seeing how the industry changes with more women in positions of authority.