Women can buy it, but not sell it.

Mediaguardian (free reg. req) has a good interview with on of the few top creatives in London who also happens to be female: Kate Stanners , called Room at the top .

She's not the only female creative director in Londons advertising industry, lest we forget Christine Jones, creative director of Mortimer Whittaker O'Sullivan, Jacqui Rainfray of Broadway Communications and Leslie Ali of WCRS, but the point remains the same, you can count them on your hands. Update: Ha! The Guardian issued a correction after I pointed this out! Thanks for listening!

What has been described as the advertising industry's dirty little secret - the fact that creative departments are 83% male, a figure which, depressingly, is slightly up on the ratio 15 years ago - seems to make no sense at all.

"You'd think it would be full of women, wouldn't you, when purchasing power is largely in women's hands and it's women who decide which products come into a household." said Isabella von Bülow to the Mediaguardian.

Of the 80 people now working at boymeetsgirl, half are women - but in the creative departments, Stanners admits, women are still underrepresented, with two in a team of seven.

"If your ads are only written by men, you're missing out on the experiences and insights of half the population," Stanners said last year, when she was creative head and vice chairwoman at St Luke's. "Women creatives produce very well-observed ads," she added. "The shame is how few can balance working as a creative with having children - which allows you to be far more irreverent and fun when creating ads for a family audience."

So just how does a woman's creative input show itself in advertising? It is not always obvious. The newspaper ad for one recent motor show, for instance, featuring a semi-clad woman and the line, "The other way to your man's heart is down the M6 and off at junction four", was created by a team of women - and branded "pathetic, sexist and out of date" by Patricia Hewitt, the trade and industry secretary. Other recent campaigns created by women include the Schweppes ad with a Sven Goran Eriksson lookalike in union flag boxers (by photographer Alison Jackson), an ad for the Vogue website with the dot in the web address represented by a nipple, and a Molson beer campaign featuring the line, "Hang out with the guys while you can. Soon they'll be dead and then it's just sex, sex and more bloody sex."

One of the few recent advertisements which shows clear evidence of a woman's input, undiluted by the predominantly male language of advertising, is the brilliant TV spot for Yellow Pages, in which a woman thinks her male neighbour's flat has been burgled when in fact it's just horrendously messy.

For Stanners, it is often these micro-observations, plus what she believes is an inherent sense of style, that characterise the few female-influenced ads we see. "Women are braver at taking the piss out of feelings of envy or jealousy than men are. A really good all-women team at an agency called Mother did some press stuff for organic hair shampoo and they were all about if you see someone with nice hair, you think she's a bitch. That was a nice way of approaching a really boring product.

The end of the article lists Great ads by women and the ads men think we want· , we don't have examples of the great ads here (The MediaGuardian doesn't showcase them either, shame) but in the latter category: Easyjet, 2003. "Discover Weapons of Mass Distraction" and Lejaby's current "Remember Me" campaign.

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Dabitch's picture

Complaint upheld

Objection to an advertisement, in Campaign magazine, for tickets to an advertising awards ceremony. The advertisement showed a photo of an unbuttoned dress shirt with stains on the front and captions describing them. A lipstick stain at the bottom of the shirt was captioned "ZOE. CREATIVE SECRETARY". The complainant objected that the suggestion of oral sex was offensive and demeaned women, especially those who worked in advertising.

"The advertisers said they had not intended to cause offence to women in general or to those in advertising; they said the advertisement was intended to encourage people to attend their awards night." (so they could get their blowjobs?") "The publishers said their audience was sophisticated, professional and limited to those working in the media and advertising." (not any girls then, right?)

caffeinegoddess's picture

It's rather sad...you'd think things would have changed by now, but there's still so much sexual discrimination going on still-especially at the higher levels.

AnonymousCoward's picture

Hmm. Where are those dang great ads by women?

I suppose some guy stumbled across them and tossed them in the trash bin.