Niel French apologises - kinda

niel french
Niel French apologises, maybe, for all that kerfluffle after his talk "A night with Neil French" arranged by in Toronto, Canada last October

He says that french maid was as big of a surprise to him as it was to the audience, and:

"However to be a Creative Director in advertising requires a special kind of lunacy. A Creative Director is in charge of the welfare of the entire company, keeping wildly talented (but often weird) producers of work involved, dedicated, and willing to sweat
and strain over long hours and stupid deadlines for the good of the client and the firm. And these absurd conditions occur as unpredictably as earthquakes and tsunamis but more frequently.

To walk away from that responsibility would be utterly unprofessional and immediately disqualify anyone from holding the position."

I'd like to introduce French to many of my past Creative Directors, all men, who left work at 5:15 to pick up their kids from school and daycare, leaving me at the office burning the midnight oil as usual. But since that would take up too much of my precious time, I'll be content with reminding him that it's only advertising after all.

He's right that one half of the family should cut back on work to raise their offspring and that there is nothing wrong with that - my beef is that he assumes all women breed. Do all men?

And if we all breed - is it really that bad to have a life outside of advertising? You know, the life that the targets we talk to actually have? Might we even understand the target better if we live like they do, instead of hanging in smoky bars with expense accounts picking up the tab? Doesn't the client have a life? I'm not saying it's wrong to be ambitious, but this isn't rocket science. We are not really changing the world, landing on mars, creating peace on earth or finding the cure for cancer here. We're flogging beer, washing powder and blue jeans. Get some perspective.

What I'd really like to know is - who hired the french maid? It's a pun so bad it hurts.

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AnonymousCoward's picture

Leave it to Neil French to spin getting a french maid lap dance as being the execution of his sober, professional, and weighty responsibilities.

caffeinegoddess's picture

"anoraked bloggers"? Love how he keeps finding ways to insult people. Funny shit there.

One thing I find a bit odd is that this whole thing went down in October, and he's just now posting something about it on his site? Bit slow on the uptake.

AnonymousCoward's picture

I love how he divides the familial responsibilities into "carer" and "provider." Surprised he didn't bust out "sphere of influence."

Dwin's picture

Dabitch I like you and not just because you gave us this great webpage, but you're too offended here, I guess.

French is what he is. and you're right that many male CDs leave work before the secretaries. but this seriously is a tough business and Neil stated that it's "mostly" the women who care for children, but sometimes it's also men.

fact is, we're not saving lives. but still, there's some of us who get a Cannes Lion and many who don't. and I don't think there's anything wrong with it if I want to work real hard in hope that some day maybe I'llbelong to the first group.

caffeinegoddess's picture

"but this seriously is a tough business"

Wow. That's incredibly insightful!!

"you're right that many male CDs leave work before the secretaries"
Secretaries? What does tha have to do with the price of bread? The comment was that many males CDs have left before her, an Art Director.

Obviously you're an idiot or just trying to stir stuff up.

It's also mostly the women who are the ones to have to juggle the professional drive, the family care-taker role, etc. I don't give a shit what sex you are, it's tough to have it all, and typically it requires making a sacrifice of some kind. Those who do manage to do it all without going insane....I raise my glass to you.

CopyWhore's picture

You're right, Caffeinegoddess. But this is exactly the point that Frenchie's making in his apology ad. No one can ever have it all; you ultimately end up paying some price for the role you choose in life. Whether that's a big career, or the more important work of raising your children...

Dabitch's picture

Actually, I'm not offended. Not in the least. Re-reading my own post I don't even sound offended much less say that I am, so I'm afriad you're projecting that, sugar. I'm disagreeing with the old school idea that advertising is a job that must be done at the sacrifice of ones own life (or any job for that matter), and that French seems to conclude that only female CD's are crap, because they breed. The assumption that all women breed is wrong.

Also, the male CD's that waltzed home to pick up the kids before us female creatives did, are by Mr French's standard "crap". (I'd have to agree actually, they were) - but see I'm just using that as an example to show how wrong it is to assume that women are crap - when his point is that people who have lives outside of advertising are crap. Both men and women can have things more important to do than pamper a client at 11:30 on a Saturday night. The gender they are born with does not decide who will find working for their agency more important than their own lives.

I've been trying to get my head around why is it that women are singled out in the "crap" comment, and as he so caringly fleshes it out, women are carers - thus they stop their careers, he concludes. Again, this isn't true in this modern world. Women who have children can - and should - take the year of their childs birth off, although may choose not to stay away for that long, or at all (nearby examples come to mind but I won't mention any names, just point at myself). This dent in their career track record is just as long and bad as those creatives that fly off to exotic journeys like India, Nepal, or an around the world trek for a 1 year sabbatical, or have taken a year off for any reason - I know several creative directors and chief executive offices who have done this. So it's not the birth-year that bothers French. Can't be, since I've seen so many men have a year off without a problem. So it must be that women pick the kids up from daycare that bothers him. This is why I pointed out that I've seen male creative directors pick the kids up from daycare. Every day! Leaving me, the AD to pick up the slack and pamper the client late Friday night.

Lets be honest here, all French is saying is that those with a life outside of advertising are crap. If you don't work 100% in advertising you're crap. When I was fresh out of school, I agreed with this sentiment whole heartily. These days I don't, as I believe balanced lives make better creatives. You may agree with his 100% idea or not, but in the end know that those 100% can be performed by both men and women.

Dabitch's picture

with the comments in between it might not obvious that I was responding to Dwin. Dwin, I know you weren't confusing me a secretary there now were you? / proud to be anoraked like proper nerds should be.

caffeinegoddess's picture

"/ proud to be anoraked like proper nerds should be."

hahaha. Yeah but I don't think he meant it as a compliment. Although, hell, I don't know the guy, maybe he did. ;)

LPikon's picture

Neil French eh?
A living example of the danger of believing your own press, then putting your foot firmly, and very publicly in the mouth - but who's really to blame , guys?
We are - (the 'royal we' that is). All of us -the ad media, industry conventions, and every single one of us for queuing up to hear the great oracle speak.
A great creative throughout his career? Yes.
An inspirational CD? I don't know, having never worked for him, but probably 'Yes'.
But what happens? Over the years, the media and event organisers want more punch & bite from the creative talent they interview or put on stage in front of an audience. They realise that here was a guy who was fearless and universally acknowledged as one of the 'chosen' - whatever that means. He believed it himself, and was more than happy to offer an opinion on anything and everything under the sun.
But that's the point - he was merely expressing his opinions, and that's also where he well and truly shot himself in the foot. Not because having an opinion is wrong. That is after all, his right. Where he went wrong was broadcasting his opinion, and parading it as fact.
Is his opinion 'right'? Well, in this particular case, no. Not by my subjective opinion - the standards of modern western society have judged him, and found him guilty.
However folks, controversy (and sex) sells papers, magazines and bums on seats at conventions - it always has, and it always will....... up to a point, and then sometimes a 'false idol' goes too far and crosses that line of acceptability.
In this case, Neil French became the Porcelain God that shattered when it fell - but as long as we (again, the 'royal we'), worship these false idols for anything more than the terrific creative work they do, there's plenty more of him waiting into hold forth on everything and anything.
In the meantime, isn't it time we all got over it by now? :)

Dabitch's picture

Nicely put!

johndoom's picture

Ah Stealthy, you're like a dad in a cardigan who comes out and breaks up the fight just at the good bit when someone's nose is about to get broken. Shame on you.

His views on female creatives (aka "secretaries) belong to another era - probably the era he himself belongs to, and as such they can't hurt me or my fellow secretaries. He may be a well respected creative but the tide has turned on his opinions, and, frankly, no one worth bothering about is going to be overly influenced by them.

In fact, his comments on women are heartening, as far as I can see, not only because they are clearly the last "controversial" gasp of a walking anachronism, but because they show us how there is room for improvement on French's own stellar career.

Maybe he had to give up everything else in the pursuit of good ads.
Maybe he had to forfeit watching his kids grow up (if he has kids) in order to win all those awards. Maybe his personal life took a back seat to his work.

Maybe he just wasn't good enough to be able to do both successfully.

LPikon's picture

"Ah Stealthy, you're like a dad in a cardigan who comes out and breaks up the fight just at the good bit when someone's nose is about to get broken. Shame on you."

Jeez JD, are you psychic or something? I checked my profile again and I know that I didn't put my date of birth in there........ do I really come across that old?
Don't answer that :)
Anyway, I've got to get ready for work now, so excuse me why I put my false teeth back in..... now where did I put my zimmer frame??

Seriously though, I loved your comments re: 'balance', and the thought that "maybe he just wasn't good enough" - something for a lot of us to think about, you wee Irish philosopher, you.

Have a creatively brilliant day!

Dwin's picture

please, stop drinking all that coffee. and start thinking.

as you've probably have heard from some friends of yours who actually ever did set foot in an ad agency, the secreataries are the ones who don't give a damn about the business and work only 9-5. that was my point and when you try and use your brain for a second, you'll see that actually, I agreed with Dabitch's comment.

and also I did say that I agree with everything you said in the last paragraph.

so what did get you that mad, again?

Dwin's picture

oh, sorry, sorry, sorry.
I didn't mean it that way, didn't know it could be misunderstood that way.

I was actually making the point that there are crap CDs who leave work much, much sooner before their art directors. of course I'm not saying that you're as good as a secretary. goddamit! can't anyone see that I was exaggarating your point to make it more funny?!?

and I even agree that not all women have to care for the home and kids. and also I agree that having no personal life makes you a crappy creative, because you loose your source of inspiration and mental calm. all I said was that French is right when he says that to be good (and this is true in every business) you have to be prepared to work hard.

caffeinegoddess's picture

This is how I read it too. That's why I got angry. I guess the language barrier (or something) got in the way. We're all on the same page. Mea culpa.