THE BLOG

Where Are the Influential Advertising Women?

I love Creativity magazine. Published by Ad Age Group Publications, it's a smart monthly that's all about the creative side of the ad industry. It focuses on the newest trends and the biggest ideas in the business while celebrating the latest tv, print and online work and the people behind it. Creativity is an important read for a person like me who makes their living in advertising.

When I received my March issue in the mail, I started reading it right away. I love feeling impressed or jealous or inspired by all the stuff I see, and a new issue is always a treat. In other words, I don't read Creativity to get all riled up.

But this month I did.

This issue is a celebration of the 20th anniversary of Creativity magazine, and it includes a retrospective of the most important advertising figures of the last 20 years. On the cover is a group photo of advertising greats - from Lee Clow, the mastermind behind Apple's famous "1984" Superbowl spot to Alex Bogusky, the man responsible for Burger King's "Subservient Chicken." Inside is a feature called "The Creativity 50 - A List of the Most Influential Creative Minds of the Last 20 Years".

I flipped open the magazine and scanned over the pencil-drawn caricatures above each of the fifty listings. It wasn't long before I noticed that there wasn't one woman's face pictured. I went back to double check. I was right the first time--fifty caricatures of men and not a single one of a woman. Apparently, Creativity couldn't find one woman who merited being pictured in a list lauding the "Most Influential Creative Minds of the Last 20 Years." I let that sink in. And then I got mad. And then outraged. And then just plain sad.

I guess it's important to say that I've got no beef with any of the men on the list. Clearly they are good, smart and talented people - as their body of work proves. And I'm also pretty sure that the ad industry isn't having secret sexist meetings in secret sexist places, plotting ways to keep women out. Maybe all that happened was Creativity compiled the list and the list turned out to be a reflection of what's really going on? But if that's true, that's just plain depressing.

So some questions emerge: Why does it matter that the most powerful ad people in the world are men? Where are the so-called "influential creative minds" that happen to belong to women-type folk? Are women really not cut out for the biggest jobs in advertising because Neil French was right-- women don't make it to the top because "they don't deserve to"? Am I just a bitter, angry hag looking to pick a fight?

Advertising is filled with images and ideas that influence people around the world and back. And it's creeping up everywhere, in everyone's lives. Most simply put, advertising is a power. And that's why I think that it's pretty damned important that it's created and controlled by a group more diverse than what's pictured on the cover of this month's Creativity.

I certainly don't have all the answers (and I'm not the only one asking these questions), but in the end I'm thankful to Creativity for unknowingly unveiling this elephant in the room. Maybe the more it's uncovered and talked about, the more likely it is that some change can happen. I just hope that in twenty years there will be a few more lady-faces on this list because in my mind, a singular point of view is a pretty dangerous thing.